A bill that was recently signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has banned registered sex offenders from using social networks, turning the act into a felony. The new law takes effect January 1.
?Obviously, the Internet has been more and more a mechanism for predators to reach out," said Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), a sponsor of the measure and a governor candidate. "The idea was, if the predator is supposed to be a registered sex offender, they should keep their Internet distance as well as their physical distance.?
The goal is to prevent child molesters from using technology to find new victims. Sounds good on the surface. But there's a sticky issue concerning civil liberties. While some people are thrilled at limiting the resources a criminal has to hunt for victims, others cry foul, claiming it's a suppression of free speech.
And it just gets stickier from there. Consider that when two consenting teens get intimate, if one of them is 18 and the other is a year younger, the ?adult? could get hit with a statutory rape charge in some states. Is this kid really in the same league as a child molester? Among many other (more serious) difficulties, he?ll also have to explain why he can't use the social platforms of his peers, even though he's not necessarily the intended target of this type of law.
And that's the rub. This seems like a pretty broad piece of legislation, and when it comes blanket statements (or laws), they rarely work as intended.
There's something that's bugged me about this whole thing: How exactly does one regulate over another's virtual presence? From a pragmatic point of view, I just don't get how this is supposed to work. How will authorities know when a registered offender has created a bogus Facebook alias at an internet cafe or library terminal? Or uses a friend's smartphone to log in to a fake Facebook account? Unless we?re talking about an awful lot of surveillance, or a whole team of snitches, it seems like it would be impossible to monitor everyone.
No matter how well-intentioned it is, I don't know if this measure will actually make any difference. I've never been a proponent of limiting technology, in neither development nor access, but I?d be willing to make an exception when it comes to child safety. This, however, just doesn't seem like a well-thought out approach.
So what do you think? Is banning technology a good idea to limit criminal behavior, or is it a step toward an Orwellian society?
[Chicago Tribune via Slashdot]