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Fighting Back: New Rules Proposed For Sex Offenders' Social Media Usage
A social media crackdown on sex offenders: A new bill introduced in the Texas Legislature would impose tougher restrictions on the social media activities of registered sex offenders, but some advocates are worried about how it will be enforced.
It's never been easier for kids to connect with the outside world, or the outside world to find them.
"Technology's always two or steps ahead of where most of us are," said Amanda Van Hoozer, Director of Program Services for the Center for Child Protection.
Van Hoozer says the threat of child predators using social media is always on their radar.
"You see more and more of it", said Van Hoozer.
If approved, House Bill 23 in the Texas Legislature would make sex offenders put their registration status on their profile, and make it viewable by all visitors, along with information about their crime and where they were convicted, plus full name, physical characteristics, and address.
"I'll be really interested to watch as it goes through and see how the privacy laws come to play with that," said Van Hoozer, of the bill's requirements. "But certainly it is to give a warning which is what we want to do."
"Realistically, it will not enhance public safety," said Mary Sue Molnar, executive director of Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, a group that, in her words, looks to find "common sense" laws and policies for those registered. "The last research we saw over 93 percent of new sex crimes are committed by someone who is not on the registry."
But with the information available on the state sex offender registry already, why worry about it being on social media?
"The information is already available to millions of people on the world wide Internet," said Molnar. "I don't see a reason for duplicating that. At some point we need to look at what's the harm to families."
Molnar says many networking sites already have protection policies to keep out sex offenders.
Officials from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault told us they think the bill is a good step, but like Molnar, they worry about how it will be enforced and by whom.
Staff told us Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), the bill's author, was unavailable for comment Tuesday morning because he was on his way back from the inauguration in Washington, D.C. However, a staffer told us if passed, the bill would be enforced by the same agencies in the same way any other sex offender registry requirements are enforced. He says the responsibility is on the offender, but there are various points along the way where local officials will check up on sex offenders to make sure theyre meeting their requirements.
If passed, the law would take effect in September.
Right now, you can search a list of registered sex offenders through the DPS web site: https://records.txdps.state.tx.us/SexOffender/index.aspx
By Adam Bennett