Blown To Bits

Ban Sex Offenders from Social Networking Sites?

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

The state of Illinois has enacted a law prohibiting anyone classified as a sex offender from using any social networking site. The definition of the latter is quite complicated — it certainly covers more than Facebook and Myspace. Blogs may qualify as well. The language is hard to parse.

I understand the impulse, but this looks like another blunt instrument designed in a moment of panic, like the Child Online Protection Act we discuss in Chapter 7 of Blown to Bits.¬†¬†Andrew Moshirnia argues that it’s probably unconstitutional as other such laws have proved to be — it simply restricts too much speech that doesn’t need restriction in order to get at the subset that is actually objectionable. Moshirnia points out two other minor problems: it won’t work (it’s too easy to create a fake identity online) and sex offender registries are overbroad (read my other book, Excellence Without a Soul, if you’d like to see how one Harvard undergraduate earned his status on the list). Then there’s the fact, abundantly documented in the Internet Safety Technical Task Force report, that the Internet is not the enabler of sex crimes that politicians love to pretend it is.

Go after the crimes, not the tools. The fact that some people can use their liberty for evil ends is no reason to restrict anyone’s liberty pointlessly.

One Response to “Ban Sex Offenders from Social Networking Sites?”

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