The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal judge recently ruled that a Louisiana law that barred sex offenders from using Facebook and other social media sites violated the First Amendment. Chief Judge Brian Jackson of the Middle District of Louisiana explained that the law imposed “a sweeping ban on many commonly read news and information websites,” in addition to social media sites.
The court found several things wrong with the Louisiana law. First, it had overly broad definitions such that sex offenders could be prohibited from using legitimate government websites – such as the website of the U.S. District Court. Second, the law required sex offenders who were no longer under court supervision to seek an exemption from a judge to legally access social media websites. Judge Jackson noted that courts lack jurisdiction to even grant such exemptions once an offender has completed a prison sentenced and post-release supervision.
It is interesting to note that Facebook supported the bill and other such bills that criminalize social networking by registered sex offenders. A spokesman for Facebook commented to the Wall Street Journal:
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