Facebook Status Update: Sex Offender
A new Louisiana law requires sex offenders and child predators to state their criminal status on their Facebook or other social networking page, with the law's author saying the bill is the first of its kind in the nation.While it's true that this is the first of its kind to require those convicted of heinous sex offenses, like public urination, to become pariahs in perpetuity on the internet, it's not the first to compel public shaming. Some states already have laws requiring people convicted of drunk driving to have special plates on their cars so others can hate them for being inchoate murderers.
State Rep. Jeff Thompson, a Republican from Bossier City, Louisiana, says his new law, effective August 1, will stand up to constitutional challenge because it expands sex offender registration requirements, common in many states, to include a disclosure on the convicted criminal's social networking sites as well.
Anybody want to guess how this will affect their friend requests?
The law states that sex offenders and 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."
If states hadn't top-loaded sex offender with such a broad swathe of crimes that have nothing to do with sex offenses, or were truly serious in that they posed a threat to others, perhaps this law, though inherently overbearing, wouldn't be terribly bothersome. After all, Facebook supports it, and notes it's terms of service already forbid sex offenders and child molesters from participating. Nobody wants their medium to facilitate harm to children.
But our blind, indiscriminate hatred of sex offenders, makes laws like this simultaneously sympathetic to laymen while overwhelmingly destructive to those of us who are aware of its full breadth. Most people uninvolved in criminal law have no idea how many people are swept into these laws, creating a huge underclass of pariahs who, despite having paid their debt to society, will be forever held out to the public for shame and hatred.
As this underclass continues to grow, without any meaningful recognition by the public of the harm being done, there will eventually be a terrible backlash as there is nowhere for them to live, to work, to play, to exist. And for a society that seeks to end recidivism, what better way to accomplish it than to make sure they can never re-enter society as a law-abiding member and live among us like normal people?
And yet, I suspect that Thompson's point, that this is a mere extension of sex offender registries, will prevail if and when this law is challenged as unconstitutional. Is there any room for more nails in the coffin? Sadly, I bet there is.
H/T reader Zarin Zhang