Facebook claims that it monitors the site for unusual activity, but simply monitoring for sexual predators using social media isn’t what Sen. John Waterman wanted.
In 2008, Republican Sen. John Waterman authored a law to deny convicted sex offenders the right to use social media and other online media and in June of 2012, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt enforced the law when she saw a strong need for the state to protect children. She believed that social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and others have made a virtual playground for sexual predators. Judge Walton did say though that she felt the law made in 2008 was generally too broad and included considerable conduct that had nothing to do with the state’s purpose; to shield children from sexual predators.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel in Indiana consisting of Judges John J. Tharp Jr., John D. Tinder and Joel M. Flaum all decided that the law 2008 barring sex offenders from participating in such things as instant-messaging and social-networking, was unconstitutional. The judges said that the law violated 1st Amendment rights and was too broad a law.in that it is too broad a ban.The 7th Circuit’s ruling overturned a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the ban.
The ACLU is responsible for challenging the law. An ACLU legal director by the name of Ken Falk is quoted as saying, “Indiana already has a law on the books that prohibits inappropriate sexual contacts with children”. “This law sought to criminalize completely innocent conduct that has nothing to do with children.” The ACLU’s general position on the 2008 law was that even though it was designed to protect children from online sexual predators, the need for even convicted sex offenders to use social networks and other such sites has made it impossible for them to even use the sites for legitimate reasons (i.e. for employment and religious activities – according to the ACLU).
Similar court rulings have also shut down similar laws in Nebraska and Louisiana. In order for such restrictive laws to be upheld, the appeals court says that the laws much be much more specific and focus on “the evil of improper communication to minors.”
Various reports have it that a Facebook spokesman said that sex offenders were already disallowed from using Facebook, and that Facebook has a team that monitors the site for such suspicious activity. Just how many sex offenders will still use Facebook though, no one really knows. John Waterman was hoping the answer would be zero, but he has been quoted as saying, “We will study this issue again and make a new proposal”.