I am sure the courts will decide whose rights are more compelling, the sex offender’s first amendment right or the general public’s to associate with whom they chose.
Additionally, in those public places in the real world there are police walking around…parents…other kids….folks that can stop them or at least identify them.
A sex offender on a SNS can hide, manipulate, and prey, without much concern about someone seeing them and/or identifying them before they strike.
It is different than the real world and the danger can be much higher indeed!
Two articles dealing with Facebook caught my attention recently.
The first by De Conto described a North Carolina lawsuit challenging state statute §14-202.5 as unconstitutional. “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages on the commercial social networking Web site.” Violations are a Class I felony (punishable but up to 5 years or fine or both).
The arguments appear to be centered on freedom of speech and the law is too broad. Specifically: Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, 4.
At about the same time an article was written by Brennan describing how difficult it was for a New York police department to keep sex offenders off of Facebook. Registration and Account Security, Item 6, reflects: “You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.” Facebook goes a step further and provides a method for notifying them of convicted sex offenders on their site. They are a private concern and have a right to set their policy as long as it doesn’t discriminate.
The article noted: “ But local law enforcement is almost powerless to monitor sex offenders allowed to use websites such as Facebook. Sex offenders, last time I checked are not a protected class. Some users may actually join Facebook or at least feel some comfort in joining because of this policy.
‘We have our hands tied, unless they’re supposed to refrain (from using social networking),’ said Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway. They join with the belief that sex offenders aren’t allowed on the website, a belief that is enforced by Facebook’s policy on reporting sex offenders for action.
Ted Murray, Hornell police chief, agreed with Ordway. That is what is called “freedom of association,” another one of those constitutional rights we have.
‘Unless they’re on probation or parole, there are no restrictions prohibiting them from being on a site like that (Facebook),’ he said.” 1 So we have articles noting a legal challenge against a law restricting sex offenders from Facebook and another noting a different state’s law enforcement being practically powerless to remove sex offenders from social networking sites (SNS). So a private company sets up a rule excluding a non-protected group from joining, a group that represents a risk to minors.