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Articles by Andrew Extein

Digital Darkness and Silence for Sex Offenders in the Information Age

by Andrew Extein, Truthout

Is my Furby a computer?”

With five months in jail and eight months of parole behind him, and four years of probation to go, Trevor finds himself contemplating the artificial intelligence of a Furby, and its threat to his future.

As a registered sex offender, Trevor must abide by a bewildering array of rules, regulations and restrictions. He was introduced to the maze upon parole: He wasn’t supposed to use a computer or the Internet, but his parole officer didn’t initially inform him of these constraints. Ironically, he found out his parole conditions online.

Later, during a mandatory polygraph test, a police officer slid a pen and paper toward Trevor, demanding that he write down every username and online alias he has ever had. Trevor, a young, self-identified “freaky queer video/net artist,” found this request laughable and troublingly out-of-touch.

“They didn’t even understand that any time you comment on anything on a site you have to usually create a username, or any of the endless crap you have to create accounts for online,” he said. “They still seem stuck in the mid-90s or something, as if I have one email address and ...