Judge blocks California’s new ban on anonymity for sex offender
This one is worth watching. With regard to blogs and forums, particularly, there’s a strong analogy with letter-writing and other modes of communication with the “outside” that are typically allowed.
The plaintiffs, two registered California sex offenders, argue that prohibiting their anonymous speech online “even if it pertains to news, politics, and professional activity, and could not possibly be used to commit a crime” violates the First Amendment.
This looks similar to a case I wrote about in October, where a Nebraska federal court tossed a similar law in that state.
I don’t want sex offenders to have access to children online. But these measures do go too far. Maybe registered sex offenders should be required to access the internet via special software that, while it allows anonymity, prevents access to services and sites that reach children.
At the end of the day, the truth is that these laws apply to people who have otherwise served their time, who are “free” in the legal sense, and who no longer labor under the curtailed liberties of institutional imprisonment. That imprisonment is meant to punish them, but also to keep the public safe, to prevent them from moving through public crowds anonymously.
If we have released them from prison, allowing that physical anonymity once again, by what logic do we eliminate their digital anonymity?
I don’t have an answer, but I suspect the issue will reach the Supreme Court sooner rather than later.