Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer explained how sex offenders are banned from Facebook. “We have been working productively with General Blumenthal and other attorneys general to keep sex offenders off Facebook, and to assure that those who attempt use our site in violation of their parole or other restrictions are brought to justice. This is one of many measures that we continue to take to make Facebook a safer and more trusted online environment.” (our emphasis – the quote is from “Report: 5,585 sex offenders purged from Facebook“, CNET, 20 February 2009).
This answers my concerns when I first read the headlines in several newspapers. I wondered on which criteria Facebook banned people. At least it is after a conviction, not before a conviction, and on the terms of the sentence given.
However, I share one concern with TechDirt’s author Longino: the ban seems to me very general and rests on the assumption that sex offenders will use Facebook ONLY to track down future victims. To make a parallel, it’s like saying that each time they switch TV is to look for and at child porn or the like. Or that they enter a bookstore only to find filthy images. I find the assumption in violation of those offenders’ most basic rights of freedom of communication. Let’s be clear though: there is a possibility that Facebook or MySpace can be use to groom. HOwever, I think justice should have evidence of it (like where they log in) rather than accept a preemptive ban so broad it is forbidding sex offenders to use an important mean of communication nowadays. “Facebook Boots Off Almost 5600 Sex Offenders; Don’t You Feel Safer Now?” (TechDirt, 20 Feburary 2009)