Where once sex offenders used Facebook to find you, now you can use Facebook to find them. Say what?!
A new law in Louisiana expands the registration requirements for sex offenders. Now an offender search can include a sex offender’s social networking sites–because they’ll have to disclose their status as a registered sex offender on sites like Facebook and MySpace. Both of the sites have been banning sex offenders from using their networks, but the law is designed to cover any sex offenders that the sites may have missed in their own searches.
The law specifically states that a registered sex offender “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.” Several states already require sex offenders to register their email and Internet addresses as well as profile names.
If sex offenders violate the new law, they could face imprisonment with hard labor for anywhere from two to 10 years without parole and have to pay a fine up to $1,000. A second violation puts them at a maximum penalty of imprisonment with hard labor for anywhere between five and 20 years without parole and a heftier fine–up to $3,000.
Here’s the problem, though. Almost all of these laws are reactionary–they’re responses to tools sex offenders already use, leading lawmakers and law enforcement to play catch up with pervs. A lot of sex offenders will still lie about their identities, make new email addresses, or use different social networking platforms (Skout was a popular one until arrests were made recently). Basically, when it comes to sexual predators on the Internet, where there’s a will and at least a dial up connection, there’s a way.
So is Facebook safe? That’s still pretty debatable. If you use your better judgment (don’t talk to strangers!), some common sense (don’t check into locations or divulge personal info!), and trust your gut (if he seems like a creep, he probably is a creep), you should probably be okay. But don’t let a law like this give you false security or allow you to keep your guard down when you’re safety’s at stake–because if you can find a sex offender, they can definitely find you!
Do you think the new social networking law will prevent sex offenders from finding victims online? Do you think the new law makes you feel safer online from sex offenders? Has a sex offender ever tried to contact you on Facebook or another social network? Tell us in the comments!