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Several video game companies have agreed to close down the accounts of more than 3,500 sex offenders to help curb online predation. The move will include popular gaming networks Microsoft Xbox Live and Sony Play Station, as well as accounts managed by Warner Brothers, Disney Interactive Media Group and Apple. 

According to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, video games' online audio and text communication components allow offenders to establish contact with minors. He noted that gaming sites are "attractive" predatory vehicles, as they promote high levels of interaction between strangers. 

Video game lobbyist group, Entertainment Software Association, responded to the account closures by noting the industry welcomed "appropriate efforts" to build a safer gaming environment for both children and adults. They encouraged parents to be aware of the games their children play and with whom they interact online. 

The online gaming ban is the latest in a series of efforts by law enforcement authorities to restrict sex offenders' access to chat rooms and social media sites. Media sources report that New York is currently the first and only state to take such measures. 

Registered sex offender e-mail addresses and gaming identities will be reported to the state and cross-referenced against online gaming accounts. Companies will then receive weekly updates to the database. Though no foreseen problems have been reported, it is likely the new ban will anger some users. Registries are not always accurate, and may erroneously contain the names of those who have moved out-of-state or whose convictions have been overturned. 

Source: The New York Times, "Video-Game Companies Agree to Close Sex Offenders' Online Accounts" Joseph Goldstein, April 5, 2012

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