BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge threw out on Thursday a Louisiana law that bans certain sex offenders from Facebook and other social networking sites, calling the prohibition an unreasonable restriction on constitutionally protected speech.
The law, which took effect in August, made it a crime for anyone convicted of a sex offense against a minor or of video voyeurism to use networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks. Lawmakers, backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the ban was designed to keep sex offenders from preying on children in online forums.
U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson, based in Baton Rouge, said the prohibition went too far.
“Although the act is intended to promote the legitimate and compelling state interest of protecting minors from internet predators, the near total ban on Internet access imposed by the act unreasonably restricts many ordinary activities that have become important to everyday life in today’s world,” Jackson wrote in his ruling.
The ACLU of Louisiana sought to overturn the law on behalf of two sex offenders identified as John Doe and James Doe.
The organization said the terms used in the law barred the sex offenders from browsing any website that allows users to create profiles about themselves or that has chat rooms, instant messaging and e-mail — sweeping in everything from news websites to job search sites.
During a hearing a few months before his ruling, Jackson noted the statute would appear to ban the sex offenders from using the federal court website.
The attorney general’s office defended the statute, which was sponsored in the Legislature by Rep. Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas. A spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a question about whether the attorney general’s office would appeal Jackson’s ruling.
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