MySpace.com has found thousands more registered sex offenders with profiles on the Web site than had been previously disclosed, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.
MySpace told state officials last week that it had found more than 29,000 sex offenders on the social networking site. That's more than four times the 7,000 profiles the company said in May that it had removed. It's not yet clear how many of those offenders live in North Carolina.
Cooper and other attorneys general have demanded that MySpace provide data on registered sex offenders using the site. After initially withholding the information, citing federal privacy laws, MySpace began sharing the information in May.
The new figures Cooper announced Tuesday include only those offenders who created MySpace profiles using their real names, according to a document given to state lawmakers. But officials believe there could be more offenders using the site, possibly under fake names.
A call to MySpace was not immediately returned. However, the company announced in December that it was working with Sentinel Tech Holding to create a program that would let it block convicted sex offenders from accessing the site.
Cooper testified Tuesday before a state House committee to urge support for a proposed law to restrict access to social Web sites like MySpace, Facebook or Xanga.
The sites let users create personal profiles and connect with other users by posting messages, photos or video. The proposed bill, which has already cleared the state Senate, would require children to receive parental permission before creating profiles on the social sites, and require the Web sites to verify the parents' identity and age.
The proposal also would ban N.C. sex offenders from registering on the social sites and increase penalties for soliciting minors for sex over the Internet.
Cooper is working with top law enforcement officials in other states in pressuring MySpace to use age and identity verification methods voluntarily. Based on media reports, Cooper's office found more than 100 criminal incidents across the nation this year of adults using MySpace to prey or attempt to prey on children.
Most recently, a Virginia man pleaded guilty on Monday to soliciting a child by computer and kidnapping, charges related to a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old N.C. girl he met on MySpace, according to authorities.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police do monitor MySpace. But creating a profile isn't necessarily illegal unless it violates the condition of an offender's parole, said Officer Hassan Peterson, a department spokesman.
Still, Cooper and others say it is important to find ways to keep young Web users safe.
"A computer is a doorway into your home," said Brian Lewis, executive director for Covenant with North Carolina's Children, which is supporting of Cooper's proposed bill.
"Children use the Internet to make friends, to have conversation, to have romances, to live these fantasies. And there are people out there, unfortunately, that wish to do children wrong." The Associated Press contributed.