California officials defended a law requiring sex offenders to report their Twitter, e-mail and chatroom accounts and screen names to police, saying it doesn’t violate free speech and can assist law enforcement probes.
The state’s Proposition 35, approved by more than 80 percent of California voters last year and backed by former Facebook Inc. (FB:US) executive Chris Kelly, increases prison terms for sex offenders and adds reporting requirements for them. Registered sex offenders in California are required under the law to report to law enforcement all Internet identifiers and online service providers they use. Civil rights groups sued to block the law, saying it violates free speech.
“It doesn’t regulate speech, it doesn’t prevent sex offenders from speaking online,” James Harrison, an attorney for the measures’s backers, said at a hearing today before the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The reporting requirements would give police “a head start” if a parent reports that a child has been communicating with a stranger online and has gone to meet that person, he said.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco in January issued a ruling halting the law from being enforced, saying that in light of constitutional free-speech rights, Proposition 35’s Internet registration requirements aren’t narrowly tailored enough to the state’s goal of combating sexual exploitation.
The case is Doe v. Harris, 13-15263, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).
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