Lawsuit Alleges Cal.’s New Anti-Sex Trafficking Law Limits Online Speech

privacy, security, InternetThe ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit in California today to block enforcement of parts of Proposition 35, a California ballot measure designed to help prevent human sex trafficking.

The law expands the registration requirements for convicted sex offenders, requiring them to notify law enforcement of all of their “Internet identifiers” and “Internet service providers.”

According to the ACLU and the EFF, the law would require the roughly 75,000 convicted sex offenders who live in California to tell law enforcement not only of their Facebook accounts, but of logins used for newspaper and e-commerce sites, for example. Failure to report the information within 24 hours of creating a new account could result in prison time under the law.

Sex offenses include everything from statutory rape and indecent exposure to felony rape and child molestation.

“It’s much too much speech to curtail,” said Michael Risher, a staff attorney with the ACLU who is leading the case.

“All of us, including people with past convictions, have the right to engage in online speech, and unless the government has a compelling need to infringe on that speech, it can’t do it. It may have a compelling need to infringe on some people, but the vast majority of these people never used the Internet to commit a crime, they never committed a crime against a stranger,” Risher said.

The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It was filed on behalf of two unnamed plaintiffs who are required to report their Internet information.

The law went into effect immediately after the measure passed yesterday, but the California District Attorney has said the state will give those affected time to comply. The plaintiffs are seeking quick relief from the courts, and Risher told SocialTimes that they’ve already had a phone hearing on the matter.

SocialTimes was not able to reach Prop 35 supporters for comment.

Image: Andrii Kondiuk / Shutterstock.com

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