When teenagers take the controls of online video games, they may not know who they are playing against, and on Thursday State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a program to make sure the gamers are not registered sex offenders. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Whether playing a favorite fantasy sport, or soaring through the world of "Halo," sometimes online gamers may not know who they are playing against, and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that could invite sex criminals.
"Online gaming is not just a digital playground. It has the potential to be a 21st century crime scene," said the attorney general.
Read New Yorkers' thoughts on whether banning registered sex offenders from playing online video games helps protect children or violates the right to free speech.
On Thursday, Schneiderman announced the launch of "Operation: Game Over," a deal with some of the country's major gaming companies, like Microsoft and Sony, to block more than 3,500 online accounts of registered sex offenders, to take aim at offenders who may use these games to chat online with kids.
"The most popular video games are specifically designed so players must interact," said Schneiderman.
Nowadays, when children pick up the game controls, that does not mean they are competing against someone in the room. They are going online and gaming against the anonymous.
The New York Civil Liberties Union says that does not mean the anonymous gamers are sex offenders.
In a statement, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman says, “How is this remotely related to community safety or to rehabilitation? This is political pandering. Schemes like this make people feel good while there’s very little being done to actually keep children safe."
According to Schneiderman, 27 percent of teens play games online with people they do not know, and he says this activity has led to at least one instance of abuse in New York State.
Crime victims' advocates are behind the effort.
"If nothing else comes out of this press conference, [it's] a warning to parents that this is an area where there should be some supervision," said Mary Haviland of the New York State Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
Some parents are taking note.
"It's very important just to be active in what they are doing and what they are watching and what they are playing, because there are so many different games out there," said a parent.
In all, seven companies have agreed to purge their online gaming networks of state sex offenders. Schneiderman said his office is getting several more companies to do the same.