New law aims to out sex offenders online

NEED TO KNOW
  • Louisiana: Sex offenders must disclose crimes on social media
  • Registered offenders' status has to be listed in profile info
  • State rep: It's a digital extension of existing disclosure law
New law aims to out sex offenders online

Few people are 100% forthcoming with what they reveal about themselves on social media. We present what we want and exclude the rest.

But in Louisiana, registered sex offenders will no longer have that luxury.

A new law there mandates that anybody who's a convicted sex offender declare as such on all of their social media profiles. It's designed to be a new level of transparency so that anyone on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. -- including children -- is made aware of exactly with whom they are communicating.

The legislation orders sex offenders to list a number of facts relating to their crime, including what exactly they were convicted of, where their offense took place, a current physical description of themselves, and residential address. Now that's a lot to try and cram into a 140-character Twitter bio or Facebook's 'About' section, but that doesn't really concern the bill's author.

State Rep. Jeff Thompson tells HLN he proposed the law to protect his two young children and others across the state who are logging onto social networking sites all day and night. Thompson says the law is an extension of existing rules stating sex offenders must inform their neighbors, school superintendent and local newspaper about their conviction and status.

It also may have the effect of "outing" or stigmatizing thousands of people to their family, friends and co-workers, even over misdemeanor offenses committed many years ago. Anyone choosing to roll the dice and not disclose that they're a registered sex offender on any of their social media accounts risks a minimum two-year prison sentence with hard labor.

However, at least this law even allows convicted offenders to join sites like Facebook. That would not have been the case under a previous Louisiana law, which was ultimately struck down by a federal judge as unconstitutional. Under the terms of that legislation, sex offenders were barred from using any social networking site.

The new law goes into effect August 1.

Do you agree with forcing registered sex offenders to disclose that information on social media? Do you think it goes too far -- or not far enough? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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