Recently, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was unconstitutional to ban registered sex offenders from using social media. The law that the court considered was an Indiana state law not unlike North Carolina’s own prohibition against the use of sites like Facebook or Twitter by convicted sex offenders.
The Indiana law made it illegal for certain registered sex offenders to knowingly or intentionally use a social media site that is accessible to minors. The Court of Appeals held that the restrictions violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in denying an individual convicted of certain sex offenses his or her right to free speech.
The ruling does not change the law in North Carolina. Registered sex offenders are still prohibited from using social networks, as discussed previously on this blog.
The question arises, however, whether social networking sites should amend their terms of service (TOS) to restrict access to registered sex offenders. Facebook has already done so, but Twitter has not. Facebook’s terms of service include, in very plain language that “You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.”
At one point, Facebook faced enormous pressure to make the amendment banning sex offenders part of its TOS from then governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. There is speculation that Twitter, and other social networking platforms, will be adding a similar ban.
Why all the fuss about an internet platform’s terms of service? Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), federal prosecutors can bring a criminal action against someone who violates a website or platform’s terms of service.
Source: Technologist, “Is it Time for Twitter to Reconsider its Terms of Service?,” January 25, 2012