Facebook Status: Married, Single, or Pervert

Beginning on August 1st (unless it’s challenged by the ACLU) (and it will be challenged by the ACLU), registered sex offenders in Louisiana will have to declare their criminal status on Facebook or any other social networking sites.

The law essentially expands existing registration and notification requirements to social networks, except … Facebook already bars registered sex offenders. So what’s the point?

“I don’t want to leave in the hands of social network or Facebook administrators, ‘Gee, I hope someone is telling the truth,’” [State Rep. Jeff] Thompson said Tuesday. “This is another tool for prosecutors.

“The new law, signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier this month, builds upon existing sex offender registration laws, in which the offender must notify immediate neighbors and a school district of his or her residency near them, Thompson said.

The law states that sex offenders and child predators “shall includes in his profile for the networking website an indication that he is a sex offender or child predator and shall include notice of the crime for which he was convicted, the jurisdiction of conviction, a description of his physical characteristics… and his residential address.”

Several states now require sex offenders and child predators to register with authorities their e-mail accounts, Internet addresses or profile names to social network and other web sites, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A few states such as Illinois and Texas even outright prohibit sex offenders, as a condition of parole, from accessing social networking websites, the group said.

The Louisiana law is the latest addition to statutes requiring public notice and registrations by sex offenders, Thompson said.

“It provides the same notice to persons in whose home you are injecting yourself via the Internet,” Thompson said. “I challenge you today to walk down the street to see how many people and children are checking Pinterest, Instagram and other social networking sites. If you look at how common it is, that’s 24 hour a day, seven days a week for somebody to interact with your children and your grandchildren.”

Facebook applauded the new Louisiana law, even though it “will have no direct” effect on its service, the company said in a statement to CNN.

Illinois and Texas seem to have the more sensible approach: ban registered offenders from social networks altogether. Most sexual predators use their computers, cell phones, and email account in the course of committing their crimes. Internet access isn’t a civil right, last time I checked. Convicted felons can’t have guns, and convicted child molesters shouldn’t have computers with internet access. They lose that particular luxury when they say to themselves “I’m going to ruin the life of a child so I can have a few seconds of sexual gratification.”

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • http://ecben.wordpress.com Will

    And who is going to spend time and taxpayers’ money ENFORCING this decree?

    Politicians seem to think that laws enforce themselves. Or don’t care, apart from being able to brag about all the laws they “sponsored” at election time.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat/ The Crescat

    I have a better cheaper idea…. keep minors off social network sites. Use the computer for homework research with a parent present. You said yourself… internet and cell phone use isn’t a right. Parents need to stop allowing their children to be so damn accessible.

  • http://wdmt.blogspot.com/ Mike

    Sadly, it’s naive to think you can just say “no internet”. At this point the internet is a part of American life. Wanna read the news, get movie listings, buy a book? The internet is the place to go. Got a cell phone? You have internet access. So are we going to ban cell phones for sex offenders? Wanna watch a movie? Netflix is out. Wanna find mass times? Sorry no internet. Wanna apply for a job? Can’t search on the internet. It’s like banning the telephone – can’t do it effectively.

    IMHO this whole thing begs one question (well, two). If these people are dangerous to society, why are they out of prison? And if they are not dangerous to society, why should they be stigmatized at all?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Of course you can’t ban all access to the internet, not because the person has some right to it, but because it’s impractical from a policing standpoint. A person could use a computer in a library, friend’s house, or public place. It is not impractical, however, to ban registered offenders from having internet access in their homes, or even limiting their cell phone access. We did fine without either for a long time.

    We deny people things all the time based on their behavior. We take away driver’s licences, seize their money and property, ban people from going certain places, and even strip them of basic constitutional rights (eg, the 2nd amendment) for certain crimes. “You can’t watch Netflix” hardly rises to the level of cruel and unusual punishment.

    As for stigmatizing … you’re not really making that argument, are you? This is not a binary choice between unlimited incarceration and full reintegration into society. Dangerous people are released into society all the time. It may be possible to overcome the stigma of some forms of criminal behavior and build a new life, but sexual predation, particularly of children, is not one of them. By their actions, they reveal the dark well of evil potential within them. Since their victims are children who are often incapable of discerning this potential, these predators are in a different class, and thus must be treated differently by society. They must bear the stigma for the rest of their lives, and their lives must be circumscribed in certain ways to protect society. We do far worse: we incarcerate people for their entire lives and even execute them for their crimes. I don’t see how a lifetime of social stigmatization is any worse.


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