back to article US state bars sex offenders from 'social networking sites'

The state of Illinois has barred known sex offenders from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and just about any other website that gives you a digital account for communicating with others. As reported by The Chicago Tribune, Illinois governor Pat Quinn has signed a new law that makes it a felony for registered sex offenders to " …


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  1. LordMagus

    Social networking site vague

    The law has a vague definition of "social networking site" which makes even places like this comment board off limits. This law will ultimately be struck down for vagueness. After all, there are many legitimate reasons to use social networks, such as job hunting, keeping up with long distance family members, or expressing your right to anonymous free speech on a comments board. *ex offender truth @

  2. jake Silver badge

    I grok the sentiment ...

    But this is going to help HOW, exactly?

    And how much money has been/will be spent over this unimplementable tripe?

  3. Steven 1

    Won't somebody...

    ...think of the children!!!

  4. OmniCitadel

    I guess

    they just want the sex offenders to go meet people face to face... o w8... that won't work...

  5. lIsRT


    ...surely people who are enough of a risk to restrict like this, shouldn't have been let out of prison or should be on probation?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Won't somebody think of the children!!!

    You mean the children on the sex offenders register?

  7. James Osborne-Smith


    That's probably what got them in trouble in the first place...

  8. fran 2


    I feel so much safer now

  9. Andy ORourke

    So is this like........

    Handing out a driving ban to a disqualified driver?

    Asking if you are a member of a terrorist organisation on the card they give you ON THE PLANE?

    Or an other of the myriad of stupid ideas law makers / judges have to give the attempt that people are being punished / protected?

  10. Doug Bird

    Perhaps this is an obvious comment-bait article. But..

    Sex offenders are not all child rapists. This law is a needless distraction to prevent children from being harmed by repeat child sex offenders.

    Does the law make a distinction between those with sex offenses related to children? How can a ban against using facebook and myspace be helpful, let alone the whole rest of the web 2.0 sites that are covered under this law.

    Yes, seems like a slam dunk this law will be wiped from the books before its able to be enforced.

  11. Mike Bird 1

    First Amendment

    Does the US 1st Amendment not guarantee the right of free speech? Surely imposing a "you will not use social network sites" impinges this ?

  12. Kirk

    Worthless law

    First of all unless you can secure an IP 100% of the time there is NO way you could even track a person using these sites. So yeah its basically unenforceable. There as simply way to many ways a person can hide their tracks if they so desire.

  13. Shadowfirebird

    Define "sex offender"

    1) Is Illinois one of those states that make you a sex offender if you're caught taking a leak in a back alley?

    2) I guess they'll have to all start blogs then.

  14. Phil Standen

    and el reg

    "include a built-in comment engine." - like this one?

  15. Anonymous Coward


    So we are stopping them from having virtual friends, in an environment where their every move could be logged and observed - but it's alright for them to have real friends out in the wild?

    Sounds like a good plan, they might still be able to actually rape someone, but atleast they won't be able to virtually rape someone.

    Let me guess, if they break the law by merely innocently contacting their friends and family, they get sent to jail? Bearing in mind that if you can prove they used the site, you can probably prove what they were doing there - the authorities are happy to send to jail for causing no harm?

  16. Robert E A Harvey

    and how

    and how is this to be enforced? I can create accounts on these things with a variety of names and using disposable email systems for the validation.

    The law would appear to give another rod to beat the offender with if he is discovered, but no practical way to provide the alleged protection.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    who is a sex offender?

    That might seem clear enough, but many states have a rather catch-all definition of sex offender, including men who visited prostitutes and girls who have given their boyfriends a blow job in school (see the latest edition of The Economist on this subject) and because of this, convicted of 'sodomy' (sounds like sex education, or at least a course in basic anatomy, is also sorely needed). Once on the list, the 'offenders' are listed for life. There is a lot of sympathy for increasingly tightening such laws, but maybe its time to at least draw the line...who is going to police this?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Isn't that JUST

    What got these folks in trouble in the FIRST place?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    will this only take effect for people in prison? or is it one of those 'yes you've paid your debt to society but we don't think thats enough' rules?

    Either they should be as free as everyone else or still locked up (if that's what's required)

  20. Anthony Mark

    Hmmmm... What is a sex offender??

    Does the definition of a sex offender in Illinois include people caught urinating in public, teenagers having sex with the girlfriend one year youger than themselves who happens to be underage, and men who have sex with bicycles in hotel rooms?

  21. Dave Bell

    Not just the Web?

    I've a feeling that this could include some MMORPGs.

    (Count me in on the caution about just who might be counted as a "sex offender".)

  22. Steve Swann

    Enough's enough!

    Just HOW many peadophiles do people think are actually out there, How many so-called Predators are on the hunt? More than there are so-called terrorists? Less?

    This is just yet MORE fear-mongering on behalf of those who want to keep us subdued and away from the REAL issues of state-control, corrupt politicians and partisan policies!

    But, that aside, let's consider some simple things here:

    To become a registered sex-offender does not require that you have actually commited a sexual assault on *anyone*, let alone a child. Urinating in public, having sex in public, public nudity, lewd conduct, engaging a prostitute... these are ALL 'crimes' that can get you put on the register (not this El Reg, I hasten to add...though I do wonder. hehe.)

    Once you are on the register, you are on it for GOOD, even if convicted. If you are convicted, and you serve a term, you will still be on the register once you have 'paid you debt to society' and even if you have undergone rehabilitation courses (most of which are based on religious principles, like the AA - "Lets's give it up to Jebus!' *snort*) - you cannot ever escape this crime, it will follow you forever.

    AND, those that hold this data will SELL it to people who create iPhone apps so that you can be tracked; your personal data displayed for all to see. Yet more fear-mongering and/or fuel for ill-informed vigilantes who decided that you've not been punished enough already.

    eCRB checks will ensure you are NEVER employable, and you are NEVER able to view that information, challenge or change it. You are blacklisted from society itself.

    And now, just to add icing to the cake, you are to be banned from the Internet.

    Your isolation complete; your prison sentence may be over but you will never, ever, pay for your crime of taking a leak in dark alley one night when leaving the bar.

    Wake up, society, ffs.

    End Shouty Mode.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That Economist article

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Politicos *still* don't 'get' the internet.

    > "The idea was, if the predator is supposed to be a registered sex offender, they should keep their Internet distance as well as their physical distance.

    A brilliant plan, with just two minor flaws: number one, there's no such thing as "internet distance", and number two, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS INTERNET DISTANCE.

    Concepts such as "Sex offenders mustn't hang around within 100m of schools or playgrounds" do not translate to non-physical space, or rather, they do, but reveal their conceptual meaninglessness in the attempt.

    If the senator actually meant what he really said, he'd be pushing a law that said something like "No sex offender's IP packet may transit within five hops of a site".

    But of course that wouldn't be so effective as sensationalistic headling-grabbing self-publicity, so it's not what he's doing.

    It's not about protecting the kids. It's about protecting the senators, their seats, and their funding streams.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    illinois sex offenders

    I'm an Illinois resident, and I've seen countless examples of people charged with statutory rape where the victim was 16 and the defendant 19. Those age of consent laws are enforced with a draconian mentality, and such cases are harder to beat than even these goddamn red-light cameras littering every major intersection in Chicago. ANY plea for any statutory case, regardless of the "victim's" responsibility, will involve the defendant being placed on the sex offender registry. And for those of you unfamiliar with the way the legal system in Illinois works, anyone against whom such charges are brought is basically (excuse the pun) fucked.

    But hey, courtesy of the Illinois State Police (fuck 'em, btw), I can establish that, yes, pissing outside your favorite bar _can_ earn you a place on the sex offender registry (if you've been convicted twice before, that is).

    Note, however, that unless classified as Sexually Dangerous, Sexually Violent, or a Sexual Predator, most sex offenders are removed from the registry and their obligation to register terminated at 10 years.

  26. CoonDoggy

    well that tears it

    If you're a SO, may as well pick a new name and use that; make up some crap about your past and try to go get a job doing something somewhere - can't possibly be worse than playing it straight in the current system.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ First Amendment

    No, in the US ex-felons are second class citizens that the Bill of Rights does not apply to. They cannot vote, possess weapons, or "associate" with other ex-felons. These restrictions are lifted after several years, but the sex offender's registry is forever.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    As Someone Who Runs a Social Networking Site...

    I think this is shite (NOTE TO EL REG: You need a "steaming pile with flies buzzing around" icon).

    It's, as has been pointed out, unenforceable. However, politicians never let things like "reality" and "laws of physics" stop them.

    I could get a writ from the Illinois AG, demanding that I scan my logs for visitors to the site from Illinois, then correlate against a list of men caught urin-, er, dangerous paedophiles, and that I would have to delete all accounts that match. I can guarantee that they wouldn't stand behind me when (inevitably) I make a mistake, and delete a wrong account.

    Outfits like MySpace and Facebook (bitch) can easily afford to have a staff counsel send a stinging rebuke, but little fish like me haven't that option.

    Politicians can be complete flaming assholes.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Way to get Revenge on Someone

    Just think, once this goes into effect, if you happen to have an extreme dislike of someone on the SO registry in Illinois, all you have to do is register them for a social networking site at an internet cafe (covering your own tracks along the way), then report them to the authorities.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    At the rate the US is going...

    the only thing that sex offenders will have left to do is reoffend.

  31. Tony Paulazzo


    >Even a nonce has his rights<

    Obviously I'm against these stupid laws, and being registered for peeing in public or whatever, the encroachment of civil liberties by ever more insane power mad politicians, etc etc etc...

    But, when a 'nonce' (rapist, peadophile or whatever), takes away the rights of their victim (choice), shouldn't they then forfeit any and all rights to be part of civilisation?

    Just an IMHO of course.

  32. sun_god

    Thank heavens

    Well thank goodness that the creeps are being blocked from social networking so that puritans like strippers, escorts, punks, thugs, gangbangers, criminals, wonks, politicians and scammers can be safe to surf the web. For a minute there I was getting worried, but now I see everything is right with the world again. Whew!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tony Paulazzo

    You are a way.

    People who have had their houses broken into by the neighborhood teenagers want the little buggers killed. They feel terribly violated. I know. I've had it happen to me...and, as a teenager, I broke into my neighbors' houses. I'm really glad I wasn't killed.

    I'm sure that you've heard of the 15-year-old girls that are now on the Sex Offenders Registry because they "sexted."

    I think that maybe you don't understand the enormity of what this means.

    Those girls' lives are COMPLETELY RUINED.



    The SOR is an abomination. It needs to have its head cut off, mouth stuffed with garlic, silver coins shoved down its windpipe, a wooden stake rammed through its heart, body ripped apart and buried at a crossroads.

    Like so many of these things, it started off with the best of intentions. However, it has become an obscenity. People are being put on it for grabbing a pretty girl's butt, obsessing over ex-boyfriends and by being targeted by ex-partners in custody disputes.

    There are also incidents of people being put on the lists mistakenly, or not taken off when they are cleared of the charge or exonerated.

    I'm sure that you've heard that the TSA no-fly list has long since become debased into a petty political revenge tool. The SOR is becoming the same.

    Except that people on the SOR have their entire lives COMPLETELY RUINED. This isn't just about missing a flight.

    Can you imagine what would happen if an ex of yours called in an offense on your kids in order to gain custody, and it stuck, or your name remained on that list, even after you got cleared?

    All that said, this is just the kind of ridiculous law that renders real remedies worthless. They debase the process so badly that the whole kit and kaboodle gets thrown out.

  34. Colonel Panic

    Already happens in Blighty

    If you are convicted of a sexual offence in England and Wales, a Crown Court judge has the power to impose a "Sexual Offence Prevention Order" - SOPO.

    The Crown Prosecution Service routinely draft these to include "not to use social networking sites" - particularly in indecent images or "grooming" cases. Some are drafted even wider - "not to use the internet" - but if defence counsel are even half-awake and object the judge will usually take a more realistic view: "Not to use the internet to contact any person under 18 unless authorised to do so by the Probation Service".

    Which seems fair enough. If you are convicted of a sex offence involving minors, you lose your write to contact them unsupervised.

  35. rick buck

    A Built-In comment engine...

    ...Like El Reg...

  36. kain preacher

    @ac18:14 GMT

    " No, in the US ex-felons are second class citizens that the Bill of Rights does not apply to. They cannot vote, possess weapons, or "associate" with other ex-felons. These restrictions are lifted after several years, but the sex offender's registry is forever."

    Are you aware of the fact that convicts in Marlyn can vote while in prison. Are you aware that you can get your civil liberties restored and vote and own a hand gun. The only thing that convicts are stripped of are the 2nd amendment. The right to Vote is only stripped away from them in 48 states but that can be restored .

  37. Tony Paulazzo

    @ AC

    >You are a way...<

    The sex offenders registry has become an abomination. The only people on it should be those found guilty in a court of law who sexually force themselves on another human being (and where children are concerned, coercion / temptation can be seen as force).

    Peeing in public, consensual underage sex (where the recipients are within a couple of years age of each other - and hopefully above 14 or so or I'd say they have deeper issues), sexual pestering etc (which might be annoying, but can be ignored), should not.

    Unfortunately, the powers that be, whoever created this culture of fear, need hot button topics to continue the control, fear of dark terrorists, fear of shadowy predators, fear of the hooded gangs hanging around the bustop...

    Alternatives: a culture of learning (no more Big Brother (as in Channel 4 tv show) and dumbing down of the national curriculum), communities, openness (which means from the top politicians, bankers, all the way down), open dialogue and sharing resources globally...

    Sorry, rambling now - Alien as maybe Xenu can show us the way /joke

  38. Daniel 4


    "1) Is Illinois one of those states that make you a sex offender if you're caught taking a leak in a back alley?"

    Yes. Though that will only get you listed as a sexual offender, not a sexual predator. A sexual offender is usually allowed to stop registering, etc. after 10 years, while a sexual predator is on the list for life.


  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Daniel 4

    >Yes. Though that will only get you listed as a sexual offender, not a sexual predator. A sexual offender is usually allowed to stop registering, etc. after 10 years, while a sexual predator is on the list for life.<

    So, they will clear out all the Google caches and Web sites that re-post the lists at ten years? Their neighbors and local law enforcement folks will suddenly forget?

    Being on any of those lists is a lifetime sentence. It is unconstitutional, and will be tossed down the garbage chute as a whole fairly soon; which is a shame, because real sexual predators are definitely a real problem, and are guaranteed to reoffend without some real counseling. Even "chemical castration" won't work, as most of the worst don't even get sexual satisfaction from the act; it is an anger/domination/control thing.

  40. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    A title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    As The Economist article points out, there is so much political desire to appear "tough" on these issues for fear of being branded "soft" by opponents.

    Even daring to suggest that such a law is not workable or not needed is enough to generate negative publicity, so few would dare to do this.

    Instead we get this constant battle to "think of the children" by passing ridiculous and unenforceable laws or laws that only serve to devastate the lives of people who are no risk to others.

    Still, that doesn't matter as long as the politicians get good media coverage...

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