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Judge tosses law barring sex offenders from Facebook

A federal judge says the Louisiana law meant to keep registered sex offenders from networking with minors online includes too many types of Web sites in its restrictions.

Over the past few years, many people have asked whether sex offenders should be able to use social-media sites like Facebook and MySpace.

This week, a federal judge decided to throw out a Louisiana state law that prohibited sex offenders from joining or even looking at Facebook and other social-networking sites. U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson, based in Baton Rouge, said the law was unreasonable and unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press.

The law in question went into effect in Louisiana last August. It deemed that anyone convicted of a sex offense against a minor or of video voyeurism was banned from using networking Web sites, chat rooms, and peer-to-peer sites.

Judge Jackson decided that the scope of the law was too broad and that hundreds of sites fit within its definition of networking, including the court's own Web site. The law imposes "a sweeping ban on many commonly read news and information Web sites," he said, according to the AP.

However, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and other lawmakers are now opposing the judge's decision, according to the AP. They say the law was enacted to keep children safe from sex offenders on the Internet and that they will appeal the ruling.

"The Internet is the virtual playground where sex offenders are trying to strike and prey on our kids," Jindal said in a statement. "We must have the tools to crack down on monsters that are preying on our kids."

Facebook did not immediately reply to CNET's request for comment, but a representative offered the following statement to The Wall Street Journal: "We have consistently supported bills that criminalize usage of social-networking sites by registered sex offenders. Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities already bars these individuals from using Facebook, and we would welcome the potential of criminal penalties to strengthen these provisions."

Other states have cracked down on sex offenders who use social-networking sites. In fact, in 2009 the attorneys general from North Carolina and Connecticut got Facebook to remove 5,585 registered sex offenders from its site and New York's attorney general urged the social-networking site to purge 2,782 more.

As for Louisiana, though Judge Jackson did strike down this specific law, he hinted at the possibility of approving a more narrowly defined law at some point in the future, according to the AP.