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Bill could ban predators from social sites

March 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Orange County authorities are finding ways to keep predators away from social networking sites to keep children safe.Authorities say that California has the highest population of registered sex offenders in the country and they hope that a new legislation will help protect children from online predators.

Authorities hope it will be the newest tool to keep sex offenders off of social networking websites.

"Our children go there as a place where they will make new friends. They go there to play, they do it from the safety of their own homes," said Kamala Harris, San Francisco District Attorney.

Police and legislative leaders are calling for the passage of the Child Cyber Safety Act. It comes in the wake of the arrest of Matthew Castaneda, a 33-year-old suspected child rapist. Police allege he met a 12-year-old girl on MySpace.com last month and lured her to an Anaheim motel near Disneyland where he assaulted her.

Studies show that one in five children who go on computer chatrooms have been approached over the internet by pedophiles. Most have never told their parents.

"Currently, there is no legislation to stop predators from preying on our children on the internet. We need to make it a crime," said Norma Torres, California Assembly Member.

If the legislation passes, it would make it a crime for registered sex offenders to go on social websites. Violators would face jail or prison time. Some, however, wonder how it can be enforced.

"Much of our strategy will be online posing as children to catch people," said Chief Paul Walters, Santa Ana Police. "We want to be as proactive as possible."

Sponsors of the bill admit it is still in its early stages but say it's a step in the right direction.

"When we open that laptop, we are opening the front door to our home for the world to come in. But let's shut the door to proven predators," said Harris.

The exact details on the penalties are still being worked on. But one assembly member who introduced the bill says violators could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.