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Court: Sex Offender Facebook Ban Unconstitutional

4:10 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
(LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Tim Evans, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana law barring most registered sex offenders from using social-networking sites such as Facebook and other online interaction is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago overturned a decision from U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt here that had upheld the law, which restricts the access because children also can use the sites. The appeals court judges said the "blanket ban" was too broad and didn't protect children.

"We conclude that the Indiana law is not narrowly tailored to serve the state's interest," the judges said in a 20-page decision. "It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communication to minors."

Pratt ruled in June that the state has a strong interest in protecting children and found that social networking had created a "virtual playground for sexual predators." She noted that the Internet remains open to those who have been convicted of sex offenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the class-action suit on behalf of a man who served three years for child exploitation and other sex offenders who are restricted because of the ban even though they are no longer on probation.

Federal judges have barred similar laws in Nebraska and Louisiana.

Officials at the ACLU and the Indiana attorney general's office said they hadn't yet reviewed the ruling and had no immediate comment.

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