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ACLU seeks to block new sex offender law

August 17, 2011

The ACLU of Louisiana is seeking to block the enforcement of a new state law that limits sex offenders’use of the Internet, arguing that it is overly broad and infringes on constitutional rights.Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is named in the lawsuit, vowed to fight it “with everything I have.”

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge Monday, the same day the new law took effect.

The law targets registered sex offenders convicted in crimes involving children and prohibits the “using or accessing of social networking websites, chat rooms and peer-to-peer networks,” according to the legislation signed by Jindal in June.

The ACLU argues in the suit that the law’s language is “vague” and “overbroad” and essentially makes “unlawful virtually all Internet access by registrants,” including such sites as CNN.com, YouTube and National Geographic because of those sites’ features allowing communication among users in comments and
content forwarding.

The ACLU also says an exception clause does not go far enough and is “vague and ultimately meaningless.”

“Everyone wants to protect children from those who would do them harm,” ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman said in a statement. “Reasonable restrictions to prevent future crimes are appropriate in the interest of public safety. However, banning access to all sorts of online information, without any connection to a crime or access to children, is using a bulldozer where a trowel would do.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the anonymous plaintiff, who served four years in prison on child pornography charges. The plaintiff is now a computer repair technician, who the ACLU says is in danger of losing his job, which requires him to use the Internet.Jindal called the lawsuit “a disturbing break from reality.”

“If these people want to search the Internet for new victims they can do it somewhere else,” he said in a statement. “It is frankly insulting for the ACLU to claim it is a convicted sex offender’s ‘First Amendment right’ to use Facebook, MySpace, and Craigslist.”

Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell is also named in the suit.

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