MySpace said on Tuesday it was weeding sexual predators from the youth-oriented social networking website, but insisted it is forbidden by law from revealing their identities to US state attorneys general.
A day earlier, top prosecutors in eight states asked the News Corporation-owned website to expose convicted sex offenders who have posted their profiles on MySpace.
"We are doing everything short of breaking the law to ensure that the information about these predators gets to the proper authorities," MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a release.
"A few attorneys general have asked us to turn the names of the sexual predators over to them; we are, unfortunately, prohibited by federal and state laws from doing so."
Prosecutors sent a letter to MySpace after getting word that an investigative company it hired in December of 2006 has ferreted out thousands of convicted sex offenders with profile web pages.
"Perhaps thousands more sexual predators — not registered or using fictitious names – are lurking on your website," stated the letter signed by the attorneys general.
The attorneys gave MySpace until May 29, 2007 to reveal the names and addresses of registered sex offenders found at the website and to explain what it is doing to remove their profile pages and help police uncover wrongdoing.
MySpace said it is checking its membership roster with a Sentinel Tech Holding company database of registered sex offenders and removing profile pages of those that match.
The "nation’s first proprietary software dedicated to identifying and removing sexual predators from online communities" was created by MySpace and Sentinel and recently installed on the website, according to Nigam.
"MySpace has zero tolerance for sexual predators which is why we devoted a team of engineers to work around the clock with Sentinel Tech," Nigam said.
"In the 12 days since the software has become operable, we have deleted and removed every registered sex offender that we identified out of our more than 175 million profiles."
MySpace is lobbying for a federal law requiring convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses to make it easier to screen them from membership websites used by young people.
"Our aim to make the Internet a safer haven for teens can’t be achieved alone," Nigam said.
"Our hope is that the attorneys general who signed onto this letter, and other websites, join us in pushing this legislation into law."
Prosecutors of the states of Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and New Hampshire signed the letter.
US law already requires people convicted of sex crimes to register their addresses with local police after they are released from custody.