Starting on August 1, sex offenders in Louisiana will be required to identify themselves as such on Facebook and other social networking sites. The first of its kind in the country, the new law adds to the existing requirements for sex offenders to check in with police and inform neighbors and schools of their presence in the area. 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.” Breaking the new law carries harsh penalties. First time noncompliers face imprisonment with hard labor for a term between two and 10 years without parole. A second conviction can lead to a sentence of imprisonment with hard labor for a term between five and 20 years without parole
The law, known as Act 385, was proposed by State Rep. Jeff Thompson, who told CNN, ”I don’t want to leave in the hands of social network or Facebook administrators, ‘Gee, I hope someone is telling the truth.’” Facebook already prohibits sex offenders from joining; its statement of rights and responsibilities includes a clause that states, “You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.” Recognizing that this rule may be hard to enforce without legal intervention, several states bar convicted sex offenders from using Facebook altogether. In Indiana last week, a judge has upheld such a law, stating, “Social networking, chat rooms, and instant messaging programs have effectively created a ‘virtual playground’ for sexual predators to lurk.” The ACLU of Indiana is appealing this ruling, calling it unconstitutional.