[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] an Indiana law [text] that prohibits sex offenders from joining social networking websites, such as Facebook and other websites children are able to join. The law makes it a crime for a registered sex offender to be a member of a “social networking” site defined as a site that facilitates the introduction of persons, allows a person to create a personal profile and provides the opportunity for communication between persons. The court determined that the law targeted free speech and thus deserved careful scrutiny. In the opinion, Judge Joel Flaum wrote:
Though content neutral, we conclude that the Indiana law is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest. It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors. … Subsequent Indiana statutes may well meet this requirement, but the blanket ban on social media in this case regrettably does not.
The court also noted Indiana already has measures in place that prohibit sex offenders from contacting minors.
The rights of convicted sex offenders have been the subject of many constitution-based lawsuits. In October a California resident sued [JURIST report] four Orange County cities over sex offender ordinances. In August a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] the Indiana sex offender registry saying it violated due process. In January the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 7-2 [JURIST report] that people who were convicted of sex offenses before the enactment of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act [final guidelines, PDF] did not have to register under the act until the attorney general validly specified that the provisions applied to them. A few days earlier, a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] a city ordinance that banned sex offenders from libraries in Albuquerque, New Mexico.