Sex offenders are a plague on society that many people wish to segregate from the remainder of the population, not only out of disgust at the behavior of those individuals but also for the protection of innocents who could easily fall prey to such an offender. For the longest time, sex offenders were placed under strict regulations when they were released from prison. They were forced to live only in approved areas that were far from schools and other locations with vulnerable people, and they had to introduce themselves to their new neighborhoods and explicitly convey their status as a registered sex offender. This was sufficient in isolating those undesirable individuals, but the age of the internet has created new problems.
With the rise in the prevalence of social media and online communication, a new threat has risen from sex offenders, including those who have followed all the previously implemented rules. Social media allows anyone to connect with the rest of society from essentially any location with access to the internet, and that means that even sex offenders can use such access to interact with women or children. It is no longer sufficient to merely track the living situation of sex offenders since they can now spread through the web.
To combat the new frontier of online communication and what it means for sex offenders, new laws are being passed that prevent those individuals from using social media in any nefarious way. In fact, many laws are already on the books that prevent sex offenders from even using social media at all. Texas is one state that has completely banned sex offenders from using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and many other states are starting to follow suit. Their goal is to protect potential victims from being approached or harassed by sex offenders, even over the internet.
Interestingly enough, many social media platforms have their own rules in place regarding the use of their systems by sex offenders. Instagram has a policy that prevents sex offenders from any state from using their service, but it is hard for them to monitor. That’s why they have a system in place for reporting potential sex offenders so they can be dealt with.
Rules and Regulations
Texas was one of the first states to pass legislation that made it illegal for sex offenders to use social media, but a recent Supreme Court decision regarding a case in North Carolina could potentially mean trouble for those regulations. North Carolina also has laws the regulate the social media interaction allowed by sex offenders, and the court decided those regulations were unconstitutional because they violated the offender’s First Amendment right to free speech. The argument is that sex offenders should have access to social media since it can drastically help them with improving their lives and moving on after their crime.
While some agree that the rules barring sex offenders from using social media sites like Instagram in Texas are necessary and beneficial to society as a whole, others claim the rules are too strict and do nothing but force the sex offenders into a situation where they can not get on with their lives. In either case, the Supreme Court ruling in the North Carolina case could have negative implications for the statute as it is in Texas.