What is your Facebook status? Most people have one these days. Perhaps
your status informs your friends that you are on a Friday night dinner
date and has a picture of your meal included. How would you feel if you
were legally obligated to have your status read "registered sex offender?"
A New Jersey lawmaker is proposing that those convicted of
sex crimes and forced to register as sex offenders also be forced make that status
known to their Facebook and other social network communities. She argues
that it is a logical step toward protecting the community from the registered
sex offenders and the risk of them reoffending.
Registered sex offenders have limitations put on them even when they are
living outside of correctional facilities, but they do have rights. Lawmakers
are often tempted to place more and more limits on what registered sex
offenders can and can't do. In doing so, they sometimes threaten the
U.S. Constitution-given liberties of those people. A federal court in
Indiana recently ruled that the state couldn't ban sex offenders'
use of social networking, for example.
While requiring registered sex offenders to identify that status on their
Facebook pages is not as sweeping as an all-out social media ban, it could
be seen as a move in that direction. If someone is found to be in violation
of the proposed legislation, they could be sentenced to 18 months in prison.
What do you think about this idea and the overall worry regarding registered
sex offenders and social networking? Do lawmakers' ideas unreasonably
threaten people's privacy and freedom of expression?
Source: Planet Princeton, "Assemblywoman Simon: Sex Offenders Should Have to Identify Status on Social
Networking Sites," Jan. 23, 2013