A New Jersey court ruled this week that sex offenders on parole don’t have the right to use Facebook and other social networking sites. In a 54-page opinion, the three-judge panel who upheld the law said that sex offenders are more likely to repeat their crimes than other criminals, and thus should not be allowed access to sites. Parolees had previously challenged the rule as a violation of their free speech rights, but the state upheld the rule, and said that many other courts around the country uphold similar rules for the sake of public safety.
“We recognize that websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have developed a variety of uses apart from interactive communications with third parties,” Judge Jack Sabatino wrote in the opinion. “Even so, the Parole Board has reasonably attempted to draw the line … in a fair manner that balances the important public safety interests at stake with the offenders’ interests in free expression and association.”
Though the court acknowledged that social media can be used for a variety of purposes, some experts were still uneasy about the ban, including Debra Wentz, the chief executive of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, who said that social media sites can be used as a recovery tool.
“Social media has expanded beyond simply ‘socializing’ and is becoming an important tool for people in early recovery to network, access emotional support, and gain access to needed services,” Wentz said.
This Facebook Help Center topic shows you how to report a convicted sex offender.
Readers: Do you think banning criminals, even sex offenders, from Facebook violates their First Amendment rights?