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Should sex offenders be allowed on Facebook? That question will probably prompt the obvious response, a loud “Hell, no!” but many organizations are arguing that banning sexual offenders from social media violates the offenders constitutional right to free speech.
Many state laws are in effect that successfully ban or limit sex offenders from using social media. New York state law demands that registered sex offenders report all of their internet accounts (email, instant messaging, and social networking) and bans social networking for sex offenders convicted fo a crime against minor. NY state law also bans convicted sex offenders from social networking if they were convicted of a crime that involves the internet. Other states have similar laws regarding sexual predators and internet activities.
Facebook has guidelines in place stating: “Convicted sex offenders are prohibited from using Facebook. Once we are able to verify a user’s status as a sex offender, we immediately disable their account and remove their account and all information associated with it.”
John Walsh, spokesman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said of the internet, “we know that sex offenders target and lure children and how they look at the online community as their private, perverted hunting ground.”
We all want to protect our kids so the obvious answer is to ban sexual predators from accessing them. But by doing so we are also putting our kids at a disadvantage. If we can take away the rights of one individual, we can take away the rights of the many. The argument that civil liberties advocates use is that social media is becoming an indispensable freedom of speech.
The appropriate question to ask next is “is social media a necessity in this day and age?” The answer can be quite complicated. Most people don’t leave home without their cell phones, iPads or other communication devices. Many of these devices allow access to the internet world. Many people would argue that participation in online discussion is a matter of free speech in its most basic form.
Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs at the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said of the issue, “It’s going to be really, really hard, I think, to write something that will achieve the state’s purpose in protecting children online but not be restrictive enough to be unconstitutional.”
State legislation can help parents protect their children but only to a point. State’s cannot trample on the freedoms given to citizens. So in the end the protection of children is really left up to parents and the owners of each individual website. Parents need to be vigilant about the activity of their kids online and social media websites need to make rules regarding what actions they will take when sexual predators register with them. These two actions are the best way to keep children protected from those our society has deemed unfit.
This guest post is by Linda St.Cyr, a freelance writer, blogger, and columnist. She covers a wide variety of topics from food to celebrity gossip. Read her work at Ecorazzi, Yahoo! Contributor Network, or The Hungry Kitchen.