Prohibiting sex offenders from Facebook ruled unconstitutional

The Louisiana ruling took particular issue with the statute’s definition of a chat room. 

Mar 3, 2020, 8:26 am*


A federal district judge struck down a Louisiana state law that prohibited convicted sex offenders from using social networking websites such as Facebook.

Chief Judge Brian Jackson ruled that the law was overly broad, thus violating the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.

“This Court construes the Act to impose a sweeping ban on many commonly read news and information websites,” the ruling stated, “in addition to social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook.”

The judgement took particular issue with the statute’s definition of a chat room, stating that it could apply to an extensive array of websites—including the court’s own.

The judgement did suggest, however, that such a law may be permitted if more narrowly tailored.

“The sweeping restrictions on the use of internet for purposes completely unrelated to the activities sought to be banned by the Act imposed severe and unwarranted restraints on constitutionally protected speech. … More focused restrictions that are narrowly tailored to address the specific conduct sought to be proscribed should be pursued.”

The governor’s office released a statement slamming Jackson’s decision.

“It’s offensive that the Court would rule that the rights of sex predators are more important than the rights of innocent children,” the statement read.

The governor’s administration plans to appeal the decision.

Facebook has said that it supports similar legislation, but avoided commenting on the decision itself.

“We take the safety and security of our users, especially the many young people on Facebook, very seriously,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. “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.”

In the past, Facebook has taken matters into its own hands concerning sex offenders. It may need better constructed laws, however, if it wants help from state legislatures.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

Share this article
*First Published: Feb 20, 2012, 3:45 pm