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Sex offenders say Internet restrictions violate First Amendment

Sex offenders say Internet restrictions violate First Amendment

Anyone in Minneapolis that has been convicted of and served a sentence for a sex crime is most likely excited to leave prison and get on with his or her life. For many people getting out of prison after serving time for a rape, life will be very different from the way it was before going into custody. In most cases, the individual will be forced to register as a sex offender, potentially opening him- or herself up to public ridicule. What most Minnesotans may not realize, however, is that many former sex offenders will not be able to use social networking sites on the Internet.

Some people believe that restricting a former offender’s access to the Internet is an important way to prevent future sex crimes. But even a director with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has said that it will be extremely difficult to craft legislation that is narrow enough to be constitutional yet broad enough to protect future victims of sexual abuse.

After years of restrictions, many people are suing their state governments, saying that restrictions against their Internet freedoms infringe on their First Amendment rights. The Internet and social networking sites provide considerable avenues for communication and some people believe that an outright ban on social networking sites is far too broad to be constitutional. And at least one federal judge has agreed.

A previous lawsuit filed by someone who had previously served time for a sex crime sought to invalidate part of a law that prohibited the use of social networks by anyone convicted of a sexual assault. The judge agreed that the law banned communication and activity that has become a part of normal everyday life.

There are certain restrictions that people convicted of rape can expect after they have served time in prison, but it remains to be seen whether a prohibition on Facebook is one of them.

Source: CBS News, “Sex offenders fight for Facebook rights,” May 30, 2012

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