Court: Ban on social networking sites for sex offenders is unconstitutional
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana law that bans registered sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking sites that can be accessed by children is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago overturned a federal judge's decision upholding the law, saying the state was justified in trying to protect children but that the “blanket ban” went too far by restricting free speech.
The 2008 law “broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors,” the judges wrote.
“The goal of deterrence does not license the state to restrict far more speech than necessary to target the prospective harm,” they said in a 20-page decision.
The judges noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has also struck down laws that restricted the constitutional right to freedom of expression, such as one that sought to ban leafleting on the premise that it would prevent the dropping of litter.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in June that the state has a strong interest in protecting children and found that social networking had created a “virtual playground for sexual predators to lurk.” She noted that everything else on the Internet remained open to those who have been convicted of sex offenses.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the class-action suit on behalf of a man who served three years for child exploitation and other sex offenders who are restricted by the ban even though they are no longer on probation.
Courts have long allowed states to place restrictions on convicted sex offenders who have completed their sentences, controlling where many live and work and requiring them to register with police. But the ACLU contended that even though the Indiana law is only intended to protect children from online sexual predators, social media websites are virtually indispensable. The group said the ban prevents sex offenders from using the websites for legitimate political, business and religious purposes.
The ACLU applauded the decision.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- $1T cost to sustain fighter jet in cross hairs
- EPA cites risks from air toxics in urban areas, improvements
- GPS stations show drought-stricken California — not pushed downward by 63 trillion gallons of water — is rising
- Don’t eat tuna, Consumer Reports tells mothers-to-be
- Scientists hope tiny robotic bee’s big dreams take flight
- Police say couple wanted Amish girls for slaves
- $132.5M ransom asked for Foley
- California attorney general to appeal ruling on death penalty
- States can apply for more time before using student scores to evaluate teachers
- Utah woman gets 5 years in baby sitter’s overdose death
- Fla. ban on gay marriage upended