As social networks permeate more and more into our everyday lives, there becomes an ever-increasing problem of lack of privacy and internet predators. And as social networks become more and more common, they become more and more necessary. With upwards of 175 million Facebook users in the US (and growing), and an estimated 745,000 registered sex offenders nationwide, a big question presents itself: “Should sex offenders be allowed on Facebook?”
If Facebook wants to ban sex offenders from its own site, that is their prerogative. In fact, Facebook technically does not allow registered sex offenders to have a profile, and provides avenues for users to report and ban sex offenders. But what if the Federal government or a State government wants to impose this ban? Some states have already begun to enact these laws, which the ACLU and other organizations are currently challenging:
- Illinois bans sex offenders from accessing social networks while on probation or parole
- Indiana doesn’t allow sex offenders to use any online social network that minors also have access to
- Louisiana had a law that outright banned sex offenders from using social networks (this was found to be “unconstitutionally overbroad”)
- New York prohibits sex offenders convicted of a crime involving the internet, or one involving a minor, from using social networks. Sex offenders registered in New York also must report any and all internet accounts (including email, instant messaging, social networks, community forum accounts, etc) to the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, and this information can lawfully be given to the websites to use at their own discretion
The issue that needs to be handled is the delicate balance between safety of minors and freedom of speech. While it’s no secret that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fake profiles on sites like Facebook that exist for the sole purpose of luring kids, there are also legitimate and increasingly common uses for social networks that everyone should be allowed to benefit from. It is too extreme and sweeping to prohibit registered sex offenders from using social networks at all, but at the same time it is simply too irresponsible to ignore the fact that sex offenders exist and prey on kids online. Some sort of compromise between safety and constitutionality must be reached.
Let us know what you think in the comments…should sex offenders be allowed to use Facebook?