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March 10, 2010

Are there First Amendment problems with barring sex offenders from social media sites?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this piece from the journalism students at Northwestern University’s Medill school. The piece is headlined "New law banning sex offenders from social networks a free speech flop?", and here is how it starts:

Peter Chapman, a 33-year-old convicted rapist, was jailed for life Monday in England for killing Ashleigh Hall, 17, in October.  Chapman lured the teenager by putting up a phony Facebook profile posing as a teenage boy.

Illinois passed a law that took effect Jan 1. to target internet predators like Chapman.  The law makes it a felony for registered sex offenders to use social networking.  “Predators are real and dangerous,” said Rep. Darlene Senger, a co-sponsor of the public act.  “In order to become a registered sex offender, you’re not just taking a picture of someone, you’re doing something criminal.”

Senger gave the example of a 42-year-old sex offender who tried to target a 14-year-old Naperville girl by posing as a teenage boy on Facebook.  The girl’s mother was suspicious and alerted law enforcement, which thwarted their potential meeting.

However, the law treads on free speech rights if the crimes that got the offenders in trouble were not clearly related to social media, said David Hudson, a First Amendment scholar who teaches at Vanderbilt University.

There is a risk of the law going overboard and seriously violating the First Amendment if it applied to all sex offenders, Hudson said.  “It restricts a whole range of media and [offenders] could be using social networking as a medium to communicate to family and friends,” he said.

March 10, 2010 at 09:10 AM | Permalink


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of COURSE there are. there have alrady been court cases. in all the cases so far where someone has taken the govts ILLEGAL action to court. the state LOST!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 10, 2010 1:29:55 PM

I don't understand how you can be punished without committing another crime. Most of the people this stuff restricts were sex-offenders before the law... and as a result, should not be further hindered by a law that was not in effect at the time of their sentencing. Why can't a formerly-former sex-offender (like the double past negative?)be able to social network with family and friends? Especially on sites that require you to be 18 or older to be on? The staunchest anti-sexoffenders bang the "protect our children" drum.. but what children are supposed to be on social networking sights anyway? Is there not at least a 16 yr minimum for membership for these things? And why are parents allowed to be relaxed in monitoring their kids on the internet? Why do we leave the job of parenting up to the governement? Mom and Dad- Stop being lazy and take care of your children! I'm SOOOOOO tired of hearing how everyone is afraid of someone because they MIGHT "hurt their kids" when most pedophiles and dangerous rapists are still locked up. The judge, prosecutor, and defender all knew the case better than you, and the low-risk S/O's on the street are there because everyone involved in the case knew the facts. Not you.

Posted by: tbucket | Mar 13, 2010 11:36:38 PM


Article 1, section 9 [Limits on Congress] and section 10 [Powers Prohibited of States] of the U.S. Constitution apparently does not apply to "sex offenders." The 14th Amendment apparently does not apply either. Oddly enough, some states feel that the 1st Amendment does apply, which if you think about it, contradicts any ruling that suggests that Article 1, section 9 and section 10 does not apply to sex offenders.

Posted by: Huh | Mar 16, 2010 12:15:42 AM

Isn't it funny that you can replace this whole hysteria anecdotally with a look at the past? I mean, it was "obvious that Jews weren't human", so those basic rights were denied to them and of course, the holocaust is what we have to look back on and say "This is what happens when you have a second class citizen.. a dog to kick, a person to blame for our problems who makes a great scape goat."

More examples: It was "obvious that Africans had no soul", and were treated like cargo on their transatlantic journey into slavery. Sure, some died on the way, but at least they did not have to actually PAY to feed their prisoners. It must have made it much easier on the human consciousness at the time to think of Africans as possessions or cargo, otherwise they would actually be hurting human beings. Turn a man into something less, and no one has trouble sleeping at night knowing there are people in your own country (land of the free??????) who do not have the same rights as you. Calling someone a sex offender is the easiest way to conjure up Rape, Kiddie Porn, and Child Molesting. Too bad so many affected by AWA retroactively never did any of these things.

Now begins our newest journey into second class citizenship. Once again, it is not based solely on the actions of the individual it effects. The retroactive application of AWA cares not for the individual particulars of any crime, only the end charge or plea. Of course, when those plea agreements happened, the punishment for pleading guilty to those crimes was not as severe. Here lies the biggest problem with after the fact application of these laws: States and the Fed have a written agreement, a contract, that now the gov't is backing out on. If this were any business or enterprise, a hefty sum of money could be had through litigation for those it effects. However, since it is nothing valuable, only people's lives, they feel they can keep anyone on the leash, even for non sex-offense reasons now it seems.

Posted by: TmuthereffinBucket | Mar 16, 2010 11:13:00 PM

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