A law that bans registered sex offenders from using social networking sites and services, including Facebook, in the state of Indiana has been deemed unconstitutional, according to a ruling by a federal appeals court earlier today.

The particular piece of law in question has been described as a “blanket ban” by the seventh U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago, who also said that it was too broad and simply didn’t protect children as it was supposed to on the Internet.

The entire decision was covered in a report by the Associated Press (AP), who cited the following passage from a 20-page document detailing the judges’ decision:

“It broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors.”

The move has been used to overrule a federal judge’s decision in a previous case. It is understood to involve the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who filed a class-action suit on behalf of a man who had already served three years in jail for child exploitation. Interestingly, this individual, along with a number of other sex offenders, have been affected by the same ban in the state of Indiana, even though they have already finished their probation period. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has since been fighting to have the ban overturned.

According to AP, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt originally ruled back in June last year (before the overruling today by the  U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago), that the state of Indiana wanted to protect children online and felt that social networking sites, including Facebook, were “a virtual playground for sexual predators to lurk.”

It is understood that federal judges in other states, such as Nebraska and Louisiana, have also barred laws that restrict sex offenders in a similar manner.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, as well as the Indiana attorney general’s office, told AP today that they couldn’t comment on the ruling as they hadn’t had a chance to review it yet.

The decision today follows a new law, passed in the US state of Louisiana last June, that requires all convicted sex offenders to disclose their criminal status on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

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