Should prisoners and sex offenders be allowed to troll the Internet?

The State of Louisiana’s legislature is trying to curtail repeat crime by making it illegal for inmates and some released sex offenders to hang out on social media sites, go to chat rooms, or use peer-to-peer (P2P) networking.

According to a Shreveport Times article on this Internet law issue, House Bill 55 “bans certain sex offenders, especially those whose crimes involved minors, from accessing social media like Facebook or MySpace, or going into chat rooms or peer-to-peer networks,” and Senate Bill 182 “targets inmates who are behind bars and using the Internet to create social networking sites to make connections with people, further scams…or send or receive pornography.”

Internet lawyers, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, and free speech advocates will be debating the merits and legality of these bills should they become law.

As a parent, I don’t want my kid being preyed upon by these types of predators online or offline. But that’s my responsibility as a parent to ensure it doesn’t happen. Just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it’s going to suddenly stop a predator. And there are already plenty of laws on the books to nail these guys to the wall for child molestation and other crimes. One more law isn’t going to make a difference.

And as an Internet lawyer, I have to wonder how many of these predators are still dumb enough to go online given the number of law enforcement personnel trolling the Internet looking for pedophiles to catch.

In short, the Louisiana legislative bills have a good intent but I doubt they’ll make much of a difference in either crime deterrence or punishment. Enforcing existing laws should be enough.