The office of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced an expansion of its "Operation Game Over" initiative today, with gaming companies such as THQ, Gaia Online, NCsoft and Funcom helping to further cleanse online environments from the threat of sexual predators. Over 2,100 additional accounts of registered sex offenders were purged from online gaming platforms recently, which follows an earlier sweep that helped purge more than 3,500 accounts of registered sex offenders with the participation of Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Bros and Sony.
The way it works in New York is that under the state's Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) law, convicted sex offenders must register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers. That information can then be provided to websites and online game providers so they can remove the potential predators. Schneiderman's office noted that Operation: Game Over is the first time e-STOP has been applied to online gaming platforms.
“The Internet is the crime scene of the 21st century, and we must ensure that online video game platforms do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming systems as a vehicle to prey on underage victims,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I applaud the online gaming companies that have purged registered sex offenders from their networks in time for the holiday season. Together, we are making the online community a safer place for the children of New York.”
Unfortunately, online gaming platforms have given sexual predators a way to interact with children and teens and lure them into meeting up in the real world. Last year, for example, a 19-year-old man in Monroe County, NY was indicted on sexual abuse charges after allegedly meeting a 12-year-old boy through Xbox Live. He slowly gained the boy's trust over several months before inviting him to his house where the abuse took place, police said.
Schneiderman said that parents need to keep a closer eye on their children's gaming habits. They should purchase age appropriate games, use the game console's parental control options, keep console usage out in the open (rather than in a basement or closed bedroom) and talk to their kids about "how to protect identifying information and to avoid and report conversations that make them uncomfortable."