Court Rules Indiana Sex Offender Facebook Ban Is Unconstitutional

An Indiana law preventing most sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking sites has been ruled unconstitutional. The ruling was made on Wednesday by a federal appeals court.

The law would ban sex offenders from using sites they know allow access to youths under 18. The three-judge panel decided that this law is too broad and “prohibits substantial protected speech.”

USA Today reports that the appeals court found that the law would need to be more specifically targeted in order to be upheld. They suggested that it be tailored to target “the evil of improper communication to minors.”

The ruling also overturned a decision by a district court judge in June that upheld the law enacted in 2008 by the state’s legislature. The court battle on the Indiana law banning sex offenders from Facebook and other social media sites came after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a class-action lawsuit to challenge the law.

Among the lawsuits was one by a man who was asked to be identified as “John Doe” in court, according to ABC News. Doe is a registered sex offender.

His lawyers argued in court papers that Dow wanted access to social media, especially Facebook. He wanted to be able to monitor his son’s usage, engage in political discussions, comment on news stories, and also share photos and videos with his family.

Lawyers from Marion County, Indiana argued that the law doesn’t actually ban sex offenders from getting on the internet. They explained:

“It only precludes sexually violent predators and those convicted of sex offenses against children from using social media that permit usage by persons under the age of 18.”

Indiana’s Attorney General Greg Zoller released a statement after Wednesday’s ruling, saying:

“The Indiana Legislature made a policy decision in 2008 that the state’s reasonable interests in protecting children from predators outweighed the interest of allowing convicted sex offenders to troll social media for information.”

It is unclear if Indiana plans to appeal the decision.