An appeals court decided that sex offenders are not allowed to be banned from Facebook.
A United States appeals court has decided that a law passed in Indiana last year banning registered sex offenders from using social media sites online is not legal.
The ACLU challenged the law a year ago, but it was upheld by a judge in Indiana. The court recognizes that social media is an important part of today’s society, and offenders online have the same needs for social media that other people do.
The ACLU argues that the law was too restrictive, and it prohibited too many activities that are protected by the First Amendment.
The way the law was written, it barred sex offenders from using online social media to look for jobs on social media sites like LinkedIn. They also could not post on news sites. Social media can also be used to follow religious or political figures.
The ACLU feels that existing laws protect children from sex offenders, and this new law was too restrictive without offering more protection.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the ACLU, claiming that banning sex offenders from using social media infringed on their First Amendment right of free speech. The ruling from this higher court overturned the ruling from last year.
Another reason for the decision is that the Court recognizes that the State already has a law stating that adults can not have inappropriate communication with children, and this new law restricted the same thing and more.
In California, a bill that would remove the rights of a sex offender to have online anonymity while using email, instant messaging and social media, among other sites and service online, has been blocked by a federal judge. Judge Thelton Henderson deems Proposition 35 to be an unconstitutional bill.
The State of California has summarized the bill in question as this:
Human trafficking fines and prison sentences would be increased and the convicted human traffickers would be required to participate in the sex offenders registry. The registered sex offenders would be required to reveal all activities and identities pertaining to the Internet. It would cost the state and local governments a few million dollars to address the offenses of human trafficking. However, this cost could potentially be offset with the increase in the fines that are dedicated to the victims of the crime.
This bill was passed by a majority vote of 81% in November. However, it was blocked temporarily by the filing of a lawsuit by the ACLU and a few sex offenders.
Speaking of the bill, the ACLU stated that Proposition 35 adds penalties to the sex offenders and puts upon them new restrictions. The example given to back up this claim was that of older crimes that have nothing to do with children or the Internet. The bill would require these offenders to disclose their screen names and their Internet provider’s information. This bill hampers the offenders freedom of anonymous speech online, which infringes upon their First Amendment right to free speech.
The judge who imposed the blockage of the bill stated that while the government has a legitimate purpose in their fight of human trafficking and online sex offenses, they can not regulate a person’s right to speech in this way.
While offenders search for a clear answer of how they can exercise their right to free speech, this issue is not a cut and dry one as the response varies from state to state. In Indiana, it was decided that a social media site ban for sex offenders was lawful. While a similar case in Nebraska was dismissed.