Indiana can't ban sex offenders from social media, court says

Indiana can't ban sex offenders from social media, court says

POSTED: Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 11:00am

UPDATED: Saturday, January 26, 2013 - 11:04am

Indiana can't ban all registered sex offenders from using social networking sites, instant messaging or chat rooms, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The state law aimed at kicking sexual predators off the internet "broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors," a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded. The 2008 legislation "precludes expression through the medium of social media," violating the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, they found.

The ruling suggested state courts could impose limits on social media as a condition of a convicted sex offender's probation or parole, but said the state can't impose a "blanket ban" on Internet use.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the statute on behalf of an offender identified only as "John Doe," who had been convicted of two counts of child exploitation. Doe has been out of prison since 2003 and isn't on parole or probation, but was covered by the state ban.

Wednesday's ruling overturns a June decision by a federal district judge in Indianapolis, who had upheld the law. 

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