New York state Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, announced that over 3,580 state registered sex offenders have been "purged" from various online gaming networks. The effort to keep sex offenders away from youthful gamers is part of a state initiative coined as "Operation: Game Over". Although the press release emphasizes "purge", the statement mentions revoking communication privileges as a possible, alternate avenue.
"As a result of Operation: Game Over, 3,580 accounts of New York state sex offenders have been purged – or their communication privileges suspended – from the gaming platforms owned by Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros. and Disney Interactive Media Group. Sony was unable to provide the number expected to be purged by the date of this press release."
"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."
Several major industry players are assisting New York officials in its crusade to remove previously convicted sex offenders from online gaming. The list includes such companies as Activision-Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., Disney and Microsoft.
The announcement claims that under New York law, sex offenders must register all of their email addresses, pseudonyms and other Internet identifiers with the state. This is actually common practice for most states. Officials then share this information with participating private sector actors who, on behalf of New York, remove or disable communications for each account. In New York's case, the information is available through an XML database which makes it simple for developers to keep an up-to-date list.
Operation: Game Over is reminiscent of an earlier effort led by former NY Attorney General Cuomo which targeted sex offenders' Facebook and MySpace accounts. That 2009 initiative, despite the absence of a clever name, also led to the deletion of more than 3,500 accounts. The uncanny similarity in numbers is probably more than a coincidence, as such initiatives probably target the same group of people.
According to Pew Research, over a quarter of teens (27 percent) play games online with people they don't personally know. Virtually all teens (97 percent) say they play games, be it on console, computer, web or portable devices.