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NY: Ruling Appears To Give Sex Offenders A Pass On Facebook

[ – 6/29/18]

It’s a case out of Essex County called the People v. Ellis.

“Their decision was that Facebook accounts did not have to be registered if you are a sex offender,” said Leanne Moser, Lewis County District Attorney.

New York state law requires sex offenders to register their Internet providers and any Internet identifiers that they use, but the court in Essex County decided Facebook is not either of those.

Right now, courts in the north country have to follow the ruling, unless there is another contrary ruling here or in the state’s highest court.

For that reason, the decision is being followed in Lewis County.

“Reading this decision, I don’t understand how they got to this decision…I think it would be a public concern that you would want a registered sex offender to register a Facebook account or any other social media account because that is how they reach out to possibly attract victims,” said Moser.

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I thought this was already settled case law following the Packingham v. North Carolina case in which the US Supreme Court unanimously determined that prohibiting registrants from using social media is a violation of our 1st Amendment rights: Although this case differs in that it requires registrants to register their internet identifiers, the Packingham precedent should still be binding because the court has repeatedly ruled that free speech includes the right to anonymous speech (see McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 1995). Upon further research, there has been debate about this exact matter in the lower courts. Here is a… Read more »

@Sunny – It’s two different things. The case you mentioned was whether or not RC’s could be legally prohibited from using FB at all. They cannot. The NY case is if RC’s had to tell the cops that they’re using FB. Those in states under SORNA (and some others) have to register with the police all internet names they use, but are not prohibited from using the actual websites as long as they’re off paper (while on paper they can impose much stronger restrictions, however, because of the Packingham ruling I do not believe FB can be prohibited). So those… Read more »

@AO – My reasoning was based on the combination of two rulings: The Supreme Court ruled that registrants cannot be barred (by the government) from using social media because it violates our 1st Amendment rights. In separate rulings, the court has found that free speech rights include the right to anonymous speech. Thus requiring that registrants provide all usernames would violate our right to anonymous speech. In regards to Facebook’s company policy, private businesses typically have a right to discriminate as long as it’s not against a protected class (race, religion, etc.). There are some broad protections in California (where… Read more »

i would think Airbnb would fall to that challenge as well.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x