Cyberlaw, Facebook, Sex, Sex Scandals, Sexual Harassment, Social Media, Social Networking Websites, Technology

Sex Offenders, Welcome to Facebook (Well, Kind Of)

Like it or not, sex offenders have rights, too.

Sex offenders are the easiest people to take away rights from. Even other criminals hate sex offenders. Their crimes are heinous, it’s unclear if recurring sex offenders can ever be “cured,” and if they ever get out of jail, even most progressives are happy to severely curtail their rights and freedoms.

It’s tough to take a public stand for the rights of pedos. But someone has to do it. Yesterday, a Louisiana federal judge struck down a state law barring sex offenders from Facebook and other social media. He used a First Amendment argument to scrap the law, which took effect in August, and created a “near total ban on internet access” for sex offenders.

That’s all well and good, although Facebook isn’t exactly pleased….

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provides the details:

Chief Judge Brian Jackson ruled Thursday that the law, which took effect in August, imposed “a sweeping ban on many commonly read news and information websites,” as well as social networking sites.

The definition of “chat room” in the law is so broad, for instance, the court’s own website could fall under the ban, he said.

Judge Jackson also took issue with the law’s requirement that offenders who are no longer under court supervision seek an exemption from a judge to access social-networking sites legally. He said federal courts couldn’t grant such exemptions because they have no jurisdiction over an offender who has completed a prison sentence and post-prison supervision.

How nice. Louisiana created a law that prohibited criminals from visiting the court website. It might have made a good deterrent for potential sex criminals: “Think twice before you commit that crime. If you get convicted, not only will you never be able to live near a park, school, or in pretty much any urban area, you will also never be able to go on the internet EVER AGAIN.”

What actually makes me the most angry is Facebook’s official response to the ruling:

A spokesman for Facebook had this to say: “We take the safety and security of our users, especially the many young people on Facebook, very seriously. We have consistently supported bills that criminalize usage of social networking sites by registered sex offenders. Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities already bars these individuals from using Facebook and we would welcome the potential of criminal penalties to strengthen these provisions.”

I really don’t say this lightly, but f*** you. Facebook has no problem finding ways to circumvent its users privacy when it means more ad revenue. But God forbid criminals use the site. I’m sorry, the company doesn’t have a problem with most criminals. Murderers, scam artists, bank robbers — according to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, you guys are chill. But if you committed a sex-related crime — Facebook would kindly request that you STFU and GTFO.

The policy is basically unenforceable, just like the fact that you’re supposed to be at least 13 years old to have a profile. But it still doesn’t sit well with me. At least now, going on Facebook isn’t a parole violation in Louisiana.

I’m not saying there are no potential issues or concerns with sex offenders on social media sites. And I, for one, wouldn’t really care to live next door to a convicted rapist myself, especially if I had children. But you can’t punish sex offenders for the rest of their lives, once they’ve paid their debt to society. That’s not how our justice system works. It’s why Judge Jackson said the courts “have no jurisdiction over an offender who has completed a prison sentence and post-prison supervision.”

Not to mention, not all sex offenders look like Herbert from Family Guy. A modern American “sex offender” might be a 17-year-old boy who took a naked cell phone photograph of his 17-year-old girlfriend. Or a college student who got drunk and peed in public or went streaking. Or a young comedian who made a marginally distasteful video sketch that got taken totally out of context and landed him in jail.

I need to stop talking before I give myself an ulcer. So in conclusion, thank you to Judge Jackson for being reasonable and respecting the rights of a massively unpopular demographic. Facebook, not cool. The bad karma here is almost palpable. But, then, this is Facebook we are talking about, and there’s nothing new about that.

Judge Strikes Down Law Banning Sex Offenders from Facebook [Wall Street Journal Law Blog]

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