Microsoft, Apple, Sony Participate in N.Y. Online Game Safety Initiative

The tech giants help the state purge more than 3,500 accounts of registered sex offenders from popular online video game platforms.

Microsoft, Apple and Sony participated in a law enforcement operation in New York that targeted more than 3,500 accounts on online game platforms owned by registered sex offenders in that state.

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the accounts were purged from the video game platforms in an effort to protect children from online predators. Also participating in €œOperation: Game Over€ were online video game heavyweights Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Blizzard Entertainment.

€œWe must ensure online video game systems do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming networks as a vehicle to prey on underage victims,€ Schneiderman said in a statement April 5.

Microsoft has more than 40 million people who have signed up as members of its Xbox LIVE online game platform, and a key goal to manage their safety, according to Rich Wallis, vice president and deputy general counsel for the software giant.

€œOur partnership with the Office of the New York Attorney General helps further this cause,€ Wallis said in a statement. €œBy leveraging the online identity information all registered sex offenders are required to provide, we are able to help reduce potentially harmful situations.€

Schneiderman€™s office pointed to recent numbers from the Pew Research Center that showed that 97 percent of teens 12 to 17 years old play online games via a computer, portable game player, game console or the Web, and 27 percent play games online with people they don€™t know. In addition, most video game consoles let players communicate over the Web, and do so with anonymous screen names.

Some games enable thousands of people of all ages to play a single online game at once, and many parents don€™t understand the extent of the interaction or how parental controls on the systems can be used, according to Schneiderman€™s office.

In New York, convicted sex offenders€”the state has about 33,000 in all€”not only have to register their addresses, but also their email addresses, screen names and other ways to identify them on the Internet. That information is then put onto certain Websites. Schneiderman said his office contacted the gaming companies and asked them to remove registered sex offenders from their networks. The companies complied, and purged or suspended communications privileges for more than 3,580 accounts from the platforms owned by Microsoft, Apple and the other companies.

The New York attorney general said that Operation: Game Over was the first time the state law was used in connection with online video game systems.