Should convicted sex offenders be allowed on Facebook? - CBS46 News

Should convicted sex offenders be allowed on Facebook?

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That question was just answered from a legal standpoint on Wednesday when the Seventh U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago ruled that an Indiana law banning sex offenders from Facebook was unconstitutional.

However, local law enforcement agencies in the Atlanta metro-area said they are investigating multiple cases of children being solicited for sexual purposes on Facebook.

"It would help," Detective Jerrald Leak said. Leak has been working with the Gwinnett County Police Department's Special Victims Unit for three years.

"I don't know if it would stop it, it would help, because it would probably stop some predators from going on there and seeking out kids," Leak said. "But, it is mental.  It is something, where if they want to do it, they are going to find a way to do it."

 The Seventh U.S. Circuit of Appeals said the "blanket ban" was too broad and didn't protect children.

"It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors," the judges said in a 20-page decision.

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.

"I wouldn't ban sex offenders from Facebook," Edward Temple said. "If they already served their time and they are back free, I don't know how you could ban them from or prohibit them from using Facebook for legitimate purposes."

Knowing who is legitimate and who is not is something Leak said he deals with on a daily basis, and so do many teens.

"They (predators) try to get them as friends and extract as much information as they can in exchange for pictures," Leak said. "They set up a fake Facebook or fake social media accounts under whatever profile or bio they want to use, and basically go out searching for friends. And, nowadays it is fairly easy because teenagers and kids these days are really open. They share a lot of information fairly quickly."

In their conclusion the judges did not close the door on future laws that target convicted sex offenders:

"We conclude by noting that Indiana continues to possess existing tools to combat sexual predators. The penal system offers speech-restrictive alternatives to imprisonment. Regulations that do not implicate the First Amendment are reviewed only for a rational basis. The Constitution even permits civil commitment under certain conditions. But laws that implicate the First Amendment require narrow tailoring. Subsequent Indiana statutes may well meet this requirement, but the blanket ban on social media in this case regrettably does not."

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