Opinions Split on Ban of Sex Offenders on Social Media

By Max Resnik

June 26, 2012 Updated Jun 26, 2012 at 5:43 PM EDT

NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A federal judge recently upheld an Indiana law banning sex offenders from having accounts on social media websites like Facebook.

The decision has some in law enforcement applauding the decision. They say the law is a win for children and communities who must be protected from sexual predators. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indianapolis has filed an appeal, calling the law unconstitutional.

Noble County Sheriff Doug Harp (R) says he was pleased with the judge’s decision to uphold the controversial law.

“We were really very excited about that ruling because like anybody, we want to protect the children in our community and across the country. We’re very supportive of that legislation and we were thrilled that the court upheld it.”

Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indianapolis, released the following statement after filing for appeal:

"We have filed a Notice of Appeal today to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and will argue that it's unconstitutional. The statute unreasonably interferes with the First Amendment rights of persons who want to use social media for appropriate and innocent use."

Falk did not comment further.

Harp says that while he cannot provide statistics about the number of cases his department has investigated involving sex offenders on social media, he does say that one case has been investigated within the last month and that charges could be filed.

Harp says sex offenders prey on vulnerable children who are searching for advice or a safe haven through social networking sites. He gives the example of the child who finds life at home to be difficult or who has recently fought with parents and is looking for comfort. Harp says sex offenders will gain the confidence of children in a vulnerable state and will ask to meet them. Then, they will pursue some sort of sexual gratification.

Harp says investigations like these can be both lengthy and difficult and the use of IT professionals to track social media use is often necessary. He says his own investigators could be enrolled in IT training to better understand how to track offenders.

“We've looked at sending guys to additional training. We've had guys that have went to some training on Internet. We're looking to send some other people in the future to help us investigate in those circles a little bit more.”

While the law does not list the social networking sites considered under the ban, it does incorporate those that allow access to children. Some of those include Facebook, Google Plus, MySpace and Twitter.

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