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Sex Offenders Win Right To Online Anonymity

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Sex Offenders Win Right To Online Anonymity
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A federal judge has blocked a California bill that would take away sex offenders’ ability to anonymously use email, social media, instant messaging and various other web sites and services. The bill, Proposition 35, was deemed by Judge Thelton Henderson, to be unconstitutional.

Should sex offenders have the right to use the Internet without disclosing their user names to authorities? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Here’s how the State of California summarizes the bill in question:

Increases prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions. Requires convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders. Requires registered sex offenders to disclose Internet activities and identities. Fiscal Impact: Costs of a few million dollars annually to state and local governments for addressing human trafficking offenses. Potential increased annual fine revenue of a similar amount, dedicated primarily for human trafficking victims.

In November, the bill passed with 81% of the vote. The bill, however, was temporarily blocked as the ACLU (along with a couple of sex offenders) got involved and filed suit.

The ACLU said of the bill, “Proposition 35 increases criminal penalties for sex offenses and imposes new restrictions on registered sex offenders. For example, the measure requires that registrants provide online screen names and information about their Internet service providers to law enforcement – even if their convictions are very old and have nothing to do with the Internet or children. This provision essentially eliminates the ability of registrants to engage in anonymous online speech and imposes a substantial burden whenever a registrant wants to use a new online platform to speech, infringing on registrants’ First Amendment right to free speech.”

Similarly, Judge Henderson, who blocked the bill on Friday, said (as quoted by Wired): “The challenged provisions have some nexus with the government’s legitimate purpose of combating online sex offenses and human trafficking, but the government may not regulate expression in such a manner that a substantial portion of the burden on speech does not serve to advance its goals.”

Bloomberg quotes Henderson as saying, “The court does not lightly take the step of enjoining a state statute, even on a preliminary basis. However, just as the court is mindful that a strong majority of California voters approved Proposition 35 and that the government has a legitimate interest in protecting individuals from online sex offenses and human trafficking, it is equally mindful that anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority, and that plaintiffs enjoy no lesser right to anonymous speech simply because they are unpopular.”

According to Wired, the next phase of the legal process could be a trial on the lawsuit’s merits. Bloomberg quotes a spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, as saying, “Our office is reviewing the decision.”

Mike Masnick at TechDirt writes of Proposition 35, “There are serious issues with the bill if you don’t know the details. First, many ‘sex offenders’ aren’t what you might think of as ‘sex offenders’ — people who are arrested for things like urinating in public, or for consensual sex between minors. Beyond that, this particular bill went really, really far, requiring all such “offenders” to hand over all details of every online service they used — no matter what the purpose.”

Sex offenders’ online rights have always been a hot button issue, and have received a great deal of attention over the past year, particularly. Last year, we wrote about a wave of challenges (especially from the ACLU) to state laws banning sex offenders’ use of social media.

One such law was in Indiana, where a judge ruled that a state ban on convicted sex offenders accessing social media sites at all, is lawful. A similar case took place in Nebraska, where a law banning registered sex offenders from holding social media accounts was thrown out. In Louisiana, a sex offender Facebook ban was deemed “unconstitutionally overbroad.”

“Although the act is intended to promote the legitimate and compelling state interest of protecting minors from internet predators, the near total ban on internet access imposed by the act unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life in today’s world,” the judge said of that case.

Still, one Louisiana lawmaker passed a law requiring all registered sex offenders to list their status and crimes on any social network in which they participate.

Clearly this issue is seeing various state responses across the nation.

Should sex offenders be able to use social media sites? Should they be required to provide authorities with their user names? Tell us what you think.

Sex Offenders Win Right To Online Anonymity
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  • Coleen

    WOW a Judge with a clue..even in the USA! Congratulations Judge Henderson for being a man with integrity.
    Yes, most people thing that all people tagged ‘sex offender’ are vile creature from the deep. Some are. Strangely MOST ARE NOT! Let me tell you a little personal story of a son of mine. In nieghboring state to Calf. he got stuck with 1 year as an offender. The county had not one bit of evidence against him except, the girls mothers statement and the bogus one the girl came up with. This girl, a school mate, friend, and yes a minor had decided with my sons Ex-fiance’ that coz he wanted to break up with his girlfriend they would pull a JOKE on my son. Yes that is what I just said! All day the girl harrassed him at work with calls, after being at grannys and walking the dog 3 blocks past his work at 6AM in the morning (usually can’t get the girl up and to school at 9AM) She come past after returning back to work and attempted to sudduce my sone. Well, happens to be he is epileptic and can’t ‘do a thing 1hour before or after’ the onset of a seizure…not to mention he was on the phone with me when siezure came on and he was to commit this act against her. Yeah! The only truth in the thing was when the mother took her kid to the E.R. the x-rays showed the pain she was having was coz she was about to start her period, which irrated a cronic cyst she had on her 1 ovary. Now nor did the girl tell the doctors she IS EXTREMELY sexually active at the then age of 15, had a boy she had been doing it with for over 2 years.
    But in this state here is the game.
    1.-Not a Mormon, you are S.O.L. for help.
    Yes, the 1st lawyer we saw, a Christian laughed when he saw the police report. He said ‘Mormon girls?’ My son replied yes. Attorney stated at least you only have 2 girls to deal with, usually they use 3-5 for this game..see it all the time, nearly everyday here.
    2.- In the County/State charged, if you are NOT a Mormon and need attorney assistance- he had to coz a good one cost to much-mind you this guy called all of his associates across the USA to see what they thought of the case-all concured they had never heard of such non-sense), you are out of luck. My son pushed to get a decent Public Defender. Finally Number 4, had the guts to sit SLUMPED IN HIS CHAIR, AND NOT EVEN ADDRESS THE JUDGE ON MY SONS BEHALF-MY SON HAD TO DEFEND HIMSELF AND PAY FOR THE 4LAW-SCHOOL FLUNKS!
    3.-MOST IMPORTANT FACT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW:::: My state went from severly in the red with budget to black in about 1 year…and out govenor is so stupid to point a finger in the President of USA face-she is not smart enough to run a mop threw her own mop-job hair. So how did this budget go from Red to Black nearly overnight???
    Easy, our state gets a MIN. of $750.00 per person they throw in jail!
    That is what I said.
    Right now the easist crime to name an innocent person on is ‘sexual offense’.
    Why?
    Coz if a lame criminal mother as the girl’s mother, in my son’s case, want to lie for her underage kid, the kid-nor herself have to stand before a Judge. Everything automatically goes to a Grand Jury-EVEN WITH NO EVIDENCE AT ALL. Once before a Grand Jury then you can say you got SCREWED!!!! Thank you lazy, crooked County/State Presecutors and Judges. Hope you sleep at night here on earth coz I’m sure on your JUDGEMENT DAY you will be up constantly with more than 3rd degree burns..afterall preachers and govt officials will be held to a higher dregree of Judgement on Judgement Day.
    So Judge Henderson, thank you for standing up for the rights of the innocent…so others are not violated more then already…the girls in slut-suits and make up arent getting screwed, the innocent are, and so are your tax dollars, coz this country threw together the most irrpensable ‘sex offender’ laws just to nail one true jerk.

    • Coleen

      Incidently, I’m not angry or in denial in writing this. But I fully do intend to push our court SOON to face the music of their injustice to private citizens.
      Don’t forget, the next time you men, husbands, fathers, brothers, boyfriends make a person mad…just think, you might be sitting where my son is, instead of the rapist Darren Pettit.

  • soccermother

    We need to get after the goverment offocals to stop passing these law just becasue a child goes missing or is hurt. Jessca Lundsford the police messed that up if they would have checked names as they spoke to people they would have found out so good information. Mark Lundsford had child prono on his computer why is he not a sex offender his son had sex with a minor why is he not a sex offender. We make feel good laws to make the government look good but they have gone to far. My son was dating a girl when the wanted to break up she said they had sex and she did not want it. But then in the next sentence she says they are sexual active. She still claims she loves him but he is a sex offender for life. They age differnet is a 1 1/2. Romero and Juleit laws does not apply becasue she claims to have said. My space and facebook still says I love you . Is this right no but this is the law.