Proposition 35's Demands For Sex Offenders' Online Info Draws ACLU Lawsuit

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Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 8:02 AM

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Proposition 35 was a big hit with California voters Tuesday, passing with 81 percent approval.

But some of its provisions, including requiring the email addresses and user names of sex offenders convicted of such things as misdemeanor indecent exposure (which can involve, for example, having consensual sex in front of an open window), has drawn the ACLU's ire:

The group is suing to stop what is says are "unconstitutional provisions" of the law.

Increases in fines (up to a million bucks) and prison sentences (up to life) for convicted sex traffickers comprised its main components.

The online-freedom group Electronic Frontier Foundation joined in the suit after opposing the user-name and email requirements.

According to an ACLU statement:

Proposition 35 requires anyone who is a registered sex offender - even people with decades-old, low-level offenses like misdemeanor indecent exposure and people whose offenses were not related to the Internet - to turn over a list of all their Internet identifiers and service providers to law enforcement. While the law is written very unclearly, this likely includes email addresses, usernames and other identifiers used for online political discussion groups, book and restaurant review sites, forums about medical conditions, and newspaper or blog comments. Under the law, more than 73,000 Californians must immediately provide this information to law enforcement ...

Those who don't could face a year behind bars.

The user name and email requirements hinder convicts' constitutional right to free speech online, says the ACLU.

EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury:

Requiring people to give up their right to speak freely and anonymously about civic matters is unconstitutional, and restrictions like this damage robust discussion and debate on important and controversial topics. When the government starts gathering online profiles for one class of people, we all need to worry about the precedent it sets.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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