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With Facebook planning to create a social media site safe for children under 13, the question of “Should sex offenders be allowed on Facebook?” comes up.
If hundreds of millions of children and people convicted of sex crimes are all online, the result could be a problem. The anonymity and broad reach of social networking is obviously dangerous.
But luckily, many states have laws that ban registered sex offenders from using social networks. Other laws also outlaw instant messaging services and such. All across the country, the laws vary in severity and scope.
In New York, registered sex offenders have to report all of their internet accounts, which includes email, instant messaging, and social networking. The information is then passed over to services, who can ban offenders at their own discretion. The state also has a law that sex offenders convicted of a crime against a minor or one involving the internet cannot be on social networking sites at all.
In the United States, it’s become very difficult to have a Facebook if you’re on the sex offender registry. But, social networking isn’t the only domain sex offenders are being banned from. The next step seems to be game networks, like Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network.
It seems as if these decisions are the logical ones, since there’s an estimated 745,000 registered sex offenders nationwide. But, there has now been a movement to challenge these state laws and the American Civil Liberties Union is stepping in to help.
One specific law the ACLU is challenging in one in Indiana, that states that if a registered sex offender knowingly accesses a social networking site or chat room that allows a person under 18 to use, their act is now a Class A misdemeanor.
The main reason the ACLU is fighting these laws is freedom of speech. They’re arguing that social networking sites now dominate our forms of communication and is a part of everyday life in our society. This side of the story is arguing that even registered sex offenders have the right to participate in online discussions.