The office of the Attorney General in New York has announced a "first-of-its-kind sweep" of video game platforms to remove registered sex offenders from online networks where they might have an opportunity to communicate with children. Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman said that more than 3,500 accounts of New York registered sex offenders have been purged from online game platforms as part of "Operation: Game Over."
The initiative has the full participation of giants in the industry such as Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Sony.
New York State law mandates that convicted sex offenders register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers with the state. And while all of this information is made available to certain websites, this is the first time the law has been applied to online video game systems.
"We must ensure online video game systems do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming networks as a vehicle to prey on underage victims," said Attorney General Schneiderman.
"I applaud all the companies participating in this first-of-its-kind initiative for taking online safety seriously and purging their networks of sex offenders. Together we are making the online community safer for our children, not allowing it to become a 21st century crime scene."
Schneiderman's office also stressed that many parents are ignorant about the parental control options video game consoles offer. "Password-protected 'family settings' on many online gaming platforms allow parents to restrict Internet access, track content and monitor contacts," the office pointed out.
Rich Wallis, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft, added, "At Microsoft, we continually evaluate ways to manage safety for our 40 million Xbox LIVE members and particularly for children on our service. Our partnership with the Office of the New York Attorney General helps further this cause. By leveraging the online identity information all registered sex offenders are required to provide, we are able to help reduce potentially harmful situations. We're supportive of Attorney General Schneiderman's efforts to make the Internet, including online gaming environments like Xbox LIVE, safer for everyone."
Curiously, while Microsoft and Sony are both prominently mentioned, Nintendo is not cited in the report. Admittedly, Nintendo's online capabilities are far more limited and communication requires having a friend code. We've contacted the Attorney General's office to find out why Nintendo's not mentioned and we'll let you know.