Facebook will routinely shut down pages of convicted sex offenders–well, those who use their real names to set up accounts and then get discovered. There are a bunch of pages on Facebook, devoted to censoring sex offenders and gathering public support behind the effort.
This clearly makes good horse sense, given the nature of social media today and the plethora of opportunities to stalk possible victims online.
But is it a violation of a person’s freedom of speech?
That’s the question at hand, at least in Louisiana, where a new attempt to rewrite a state law seeking to ban certain sex offenders from Facebook and other social networking sites is making its way through the legislature, following an earlier decision in February by a federal judge, striking down an existing law as a violation of First Amendment rights.
That law had banned the “unlawful use or access of social media,” which included “the using or accessing of social networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks by a person who is required to register as a sex offender.” It provided serious punishments, including a 10-year sentence for a first offense.
The law was too broad, according to federal judge who labeled it unconstitutional. And constitutional scholars like David Hudson, agree that, even though its intent was well-meant, it would “in fact prohibit former sex offenders from reading many online newspapers, using Facebook or MySpace, or even accessing the federal court’s website.”
What do you think?