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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Should sex offenders be allowed on Facebook?

Posted by on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 2:33 PM

There's a law in North Carolina that bans registered sex offenders from using social media websites like Facebook. At face value,  it seems to be a good law. Social media seems to be a place where alleged sex offenders can meet their victims.

But a Chapel Hill attorney says the law is too broad.

Attorney Glenn Gerding, who is representing convicted sex offender Christian Martin Johnson, argues that the law is too broad, and would prevent his client from using sites like Google or Amazon, since both platforms offer social networking features. "The regulation does not just keep a registered sex offender from engaging in obscene speech with a minor," Gerding wrote, in a motion filed last month. "It prohibits any and all speech, however innocent, even if it's a religious conversation between the offender and his priest, or a discussion of family matters between the offender and his mother."

According the The Raleigh News & Observer:

Across the state last year, 75 offenders were charged under the law, which targets social networks such as MySpace and Facebook that allow minors as members.

And while lawyers representing sex offenders may find the law too broad and unfair, politicians say sex offenders can communicate without using the Internet and social media.

But Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who sponsored the law as a state senator, says there are other ways registered sex offenders can communicate.

"We do have the mail," he said. "We do have telephone."

Dalton said the Internet restriction is no different from a sex offender being prohibited from running a food vending cart on a school campus.

"When you are deemed to be a sexual predator, sometimes you do not have all the full rights of every citizen out there," Dalton said. "It's got a good public purpose. We don't need sex offenders engaging with minors."

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