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Sex offenders' online rights upheld.

A federal appeals court in January ruled unconstitutional an Indiana law that broadly prohibits registered sex offenders from using social media websites. In the case of Doe v. Marion Court Prosecutor, the court said that Indiana's law barring registered sex offenders from any social networking sites, instant message services or chat sites available to minors violated the offenders' First Amendment free speech rights.

The appeals court said the law prohibits protected speech too broadly in its effort to advance the state's interest in protecting young people from improper communications. The suit was filed as a class action on behalf of registered sex offenders in Indiana.

Federal district courts in recent years have ruled similarly against broad Internet restriction laws in Louisiana and Nebraska.

Eight states have enacted restrictions on Web use by registered sex offenders, often tailoring the law to offenders who have been convicted of particular crimes against children. More common are state laws that specify what information must be collected when sex offenders register. Most laws include Internet accounts, profiles, screen names, email addresses and other such online identifiers.

Internet addresses and identifiers are among the registration information that must be provided under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification (SORNA) provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The act placed many sex offender registration requirements on states. Sixteen states have complied with SORNA to date; others face federal justice assistance grant penalties.

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Author:Lyons, Donna
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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