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Judge upholds sex offender ban from Facebook

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Indiana’s law banning certain registered sex offenders from using social networking sites that allow minors is not unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled Friday.

John Doe, who was convicted in 2000 of two counts of child exploitation, challenged Indiana Code 35-42-4-12(e), which does not allow certain sex or violent offenders from using social networking sites or instant messaging and chat rooms if the offender knows a person under the age of 18 can access the site. Violating the statute is a Class A misdemeanor, unless there is a prior, unrelated conviction under this section – then it’s a Class D felony.

Doe wants to be able to access Facebook to monitor his teenage son’s activity on it as well as comment on certain news sites that require a Facebook account. He also argues that he wants to use Facebook to advertise his small business, look at family photographs, and communicate with fellow pilots.

Doe is not on any form of parole or supervised release currently, but is required to register on the state sex and violent offender registry for the rest of his life.

Pratt examined the wording and impact of the statute and found that it is content-neutral and narrowly tailored. The statute leaves “ample alternative channels of communication” and does not violate Doe’s First Amendment rights.

Doe can still use email, message boards, and networking sites like LinkedIn that require users be at least 18.

“The Court readily concedes that social networking is a prominent feature of modern-day society; however, communication does not begin with a ‘Facebook wall post’ and end with a ‘140-character Tweet,’” she wrote in John Doe, on his own behalf and on behalf of those similarly situated v. Prosecutor, Marion County, Ind., 1:12-CV-62.

Pratt also rejected his argument that the law is unnecessary because Indiana already prohibits the solicitation of children “by using a computer network.”

“In sum, the need to deter sexual predators reinforces that the statute at issue is not rendered unnecessary by a separate Indiana statute criminalizing online child solicitation. The statute at issue bars a subset of sex offenders from using a subset of web sites that could easily facilitate communications between sexual predators and their prey,” she wrote. “Accordingly, the Court finds that the statute at issue is narrowly tailored to advance a substantial government interest.”

Pratt denied Doe’s request for a preliminary injunction and permanent relief in the form of a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction.

 

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  • good ruling
    Good ruling and it at least indirectly supports the idea of privacy in the social network. the social network is not public in the same sense as comments that are published in a newspaper for example, or uttered aloud in public space. that difference needs to be underlined much more in decisions and whehter ot not that was part of the analysis, I think that is what some will find implied. good decision.

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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