A new law coming soon to the state of Louisiana will require the online profiles of sex offenders and child predators to indicate their sex offender status while using social networking sites.
The new law, authored by State Rep. Jeff Thompson, a Republican from Bossier City, Louisiana, effective August 1, boasts to be the first of its kind in the nation.
"It provides the same notice to persons in whose home you are injecting yourself via the Internet," Thompson told CNN. "I challenge you today to walk down the street to see how many people and children are checking Pinterest, Instagram and other social networking sites. If you look at how common it is, that's 24 hour a day, seven days a week for somebody to interact with your children and your grandchildren."
Thompson HB No. 249
The new law says sex offenders, child predators "shall include in his profile for the networking website an indication that he is a sex offender or child predator and shall include notice of the crime for which he was convicted, the jurisdiction of conviction, a description of his physical characteristics ... and his residential address."
Once entered, it needs to be "displayed in his profile for the networking website and that such information is visible to, or is able to be viewed by, other users and visitors of the networking website."
What if they sneak on without updating their status?
According to CNN, if authorities catch wind of it, transgressors could face imprisonment with hard labor for a term between two and 10 years without parole and a fine up to $1,000. A second conviction carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment with hard labor for a term between five and 20 years without parole and a fine up to $3,000.
What does Facebook think about the new law. The company told CNN it "will have no direct" effect on the site, as "Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities already bars registered sex offenders from using Facebook."
In other words, if a sex offender updates their status to "sex offender" they'll be kicked off the site anyway because they are, well, sex offenders who were already barred from using Facebook in the first place.
"You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender," the policy reads, in a section that also prohibits children under 13 and multiple accounts on the site.
But Thompson, an attorney and a father of a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, said the law is designed to cover any unforeseeable gaps those sites.
"I don't want to leave in the hands of social network or Facebook administrators, 'Gee, I hope someone is telling the truth,'" Thompson told CNN Tuesday. "This is another tool for prosecutors."
Critics of the law say that sex offenders have rights, too. Commenting on a Louisiana law that would have banned sex offenders from using the Internet altogether that a federal court struck down earlier this year, the legal website, above the law, writes:
I’m not saying there are no potential issues or concerns with sex offenders on social media sites. And I, for one, wouldn’t really care to live next door to a convicted rapist myself, especially if I had children. But you can’t punish sex offenders for the rest of their lives, once they’ve paid their debt to society. That’s not how our justice system works. It’s why Judge Jackson said the courts “have no jurisdiction over an offender who has completed a prison sentence and post-prison supervision.”
And Forbes points out the problems these laws can have for sex offenders. An Arizona sex offender was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison because of his persistent use of Facebook. He claimed that the social networking site was necessary part of the marketing strategy for his web-design business.