Sex offenders on social media? The rules, the reality, and what to watch out for
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Here’s the big problem with using social media and tracking registered sex offenders -- in the time it would take authorities to get one social media account closed, the offender could have already opened three more.
There are 1.5 billion users on Facebook every day, but among those profiles are people who are not allowed to be on the platform, according to Facebook. These are people like 57-year-old Robert Gale Wojda, a convicted sex offender in Ohio and two other states.
“Part of his probation was that he was not supposed to be on social media of any kind, whatsoever,” said Mary Gary-Ford, a detective specializing in internet crimes with the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department.
And yet there he was, using Facebook to engage in sexually explicit conversations with minors.
“Thankfully his probation officer just checked and she found a Facebook profile for him with his photo and you could tell he was actively liking posts,” said Gary-Ford.
Wojda admitted to sending explicit photographs through Facebook. He recently pleaded no contest to electronic solicitation of a minor and is now serving 20 years in a Virginia prison.
Police say Wojda is far from the only predator using social media. Facebook has a specific policy that bans convicted sex offenders. But in less than two hours, FOX19′s investigation easily tracked down 16 different registered sex offenders with what appeared to be active Facebook profiles. FOX19 reported its findings to Facebook.
The site immediately launched an investigation and disabled the accounts.
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputy Margo Kuderer says there isn’t a law against them using social media unless they’re on parole or probation.
“Once they’re off probation they’re fair game,” Kuderer said. “They can do whatever they please. They are required to register their Facebook, email accounts, and so forth.”
Investigators now ask parents to have age-appropriate, non-judgmental conversations with their kids.
“Hey this is something that could happen,” said Gary-Ford. “If it does, just stop what you’re doing, come to me. Talk to me. We’ll work it out together. You’re not in trouble.”
Kuderer mentioned an example of an offender who was taking photos off of a female’s Facebook page.
“Of her children,” Kuderer said. “Would post them onto his Facebook page, but nobody could do anything because it’s not illegal. When you put your picture out there anybody can copy it.”
Deputies say there are steps you can take right now to make sure predators do not target your kids. First, never let them have their phones in their bedrooms at night. And only let your children use tablets and computers in a room where you can monitor what they’re doing.
You can use these links to track sex offenders near your neighborhood right now:
Do your research and know the apps that are out there, including one that looks like a calculator but really hides photos.
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