Typically online sexual predators are depicted infiltrating Facebook or chat rooms, not the equally as networked world of online gaming. That might be why it’s taken authorities awhile to identify those avatars as a potential target. In an unprecedented initiative dubbed “Operation: Game Over,” however, New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced a partnership with major tech companies that have agreed to “shed registered sex offenders from their networks, reports CNET.
Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Bros., and Sony have all joined the effort, which has already helped purge more than 3,500 accounts of registered sex offenders in New York from platforms like Xbox Live and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.
“Operation: Game Over,” which sounds almost comical for its purpose, coincides with the case of 19-year-old Richard Kretovic of Greece, New York, who pleaded guilty last month to abusing a 10-year-old boy he met on Xbox Live. CNET points to data from the Pew Research Center that shows 27 percent of teenagers ages 12 to 17 play video games online with strangers. Add to the that the fact that most video game consoles let players use anonymous screen names and it’s obvious how difficult online gaming must be to police.
Local authorities found those 3,500 accounts by searching databases for convicted sex offenders who are required by law to register their email address, screen names, “and other Internet identifiers,” says CNET. People like Mr. Kretovic, who was not a registered offender at the time, would not have been found.