In the past, we’ve written about sex offenders on Facebook and other social networking websites. Some states have enacted laws that curtail the ability of registered sex offenders to use the same social media websites that minors also have access to. On January 23rd the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that an Illinois law banning most sex offenders from using social networking websites is unconstitutional.
The law, called 35-42-4-12, prohibits most sex offenders from using Facebook and other social media websites that “the offender knows allow a person who is less than 18 years of age to access.” An unidentified sex offender challenged the constitutionality of 35-42-4-12 in January of 2012, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment rights. The ACLU represented the man, who wanted to use Facebook and other websites to engage in harmless activities, such as sharing pictures with family and friends and discussing politics and the news. Lawyers for Indiana reasoned that the law is not unconstitutional since it only bans sex offenders from using some social media websites, not the internet as a whole.
The appeals court found the law to be unconstitutional. In its 3-0 opinion, the Court ruled that while the goal of the law is commendable, it is unconstitutional because it “targets substantially more activity than the evil it seeks to redress.” ACLU legal director Ken Falk stated that “the court properly recognized that the state cannot do this with a law so broad that it prevents someone convicted of an offense years, or even decades ago, from engaging in a host of innocent communications via social media.” Let us know what you think in the comments…Should convicted sex offenders be allowed to use Facebook?