In recent years there has been intense public pressure to enact increasingly restrictive and intrusive sex offender laws. The regulation of sex offenders has now moved online, where a growing amount of protected expression and activity occurs. The latest trend in sex offender policy has been the passage of state laws prohibiting sex offenders from visiting social networking sites, such as Myspace or Facebook. The use of these websites implicates the First Amendment right of expressive association. Broad social-networking-site bans threaten the First Amendment expressive association rights of sex offenders, who do not lose all of their constitutional rights by virtue of their conviction. Although social-networking-site bans are politically attractive on the surface, such prohibitions are fundamentally flawed because they are predicated on a number of widespread misconceptions about sex offenses and sex offender behavior. These misconceptions include the beliefs that all registered sex offenders are violent sexual predators who have extremely high recidivism rates and that Internet predators are increasing the incidence of sex crimes against minors. In fact, there is very little evidence to indicate that this type of legislation will help reduce sexual violence. This Note argues for empirically based and narrowly tailored sex offender policies that will strike the appropriate balance between protecting minors from sexual abuse and respecting sex offenders' constitutional rights. Such an approach is more likely to help rehabilitate offenders and thus protect children and others from sexual predators.

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