Federal Court Rules Sex Offenders Cannot Be Denied Access to Facebook

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Unfortunately, what people think should happen and what the law requires are not always the same. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently made headlines when it ruled that an Indiana statute that bans most registered sex offenders from using social networking websites, like Facebook, was unconstitutional.

The controversial law specifically prohibits certain sex offenders from “knowingly or intentionally us[ing]: a social networking web site” or “an instant messaging or chat room program” that “the offender knows allows a person who is less than eighteen (18) years of age to access or use the web site or program.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana challenged the statute on behalf of a class of unidentified sex offenders.

Ultimately, the Seventh Circuit overturned the law on First Amendment grounds, after concluding that the Indiana law was not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest. “It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors,” the opinion in John Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County, Indiana states.

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