By Eva Ruth Moravec
Six registered sex offenders testified before a state House committee Tuesday, claiming a proposed bill requiring them to reveal their history on social networks would be ineffective and overly restrictive.
“This bill would cost me my job,” [name withheld], 49, told the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. “Who is protecting my children? My children got kicked out of karate class because someone saw me on the registry, because their daddy wears what is in effect a gold star.”
[name withheld], a database administrator, was convicted of sexual crimes against two girls, ages 8 and 9, in the 1990s. The crimes placed him and five others who testified before the committee on the state's sex offender registry. The list is available to the public on the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.
House Bill 23 (PDF), authored by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, would require registrants to disclose information like details of the offense, employment information and personal identification information, on their online social networking profiles.
“It's on the DPS site now, where as few people as possible can see it,” Martinez Fischer said to the committee. “I have a concern that it's OK to have a registry, but heaven forbid if it works, we have a problem. I don't know if that's the right public policy.”
The bill intends to give the registration law a technology upgrade — when the registry was mandated in 1991, social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter didn't exist.
Computer usage is prohibited for offenders on parole or probation, said Bexar County First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg during the committee meeting.
- I find this very unlikely. Maybe for some on probation / parole, but I'm sure it's not all like this article leads you to believe, but I could be wrong.
Computer identification information that includes any social network profiles is required by registrants, but that information isn't necessarily tracked, Herberg said.
“Our probation officers have a massive caseload and don't have time to monitor Facebook. Often times, these things only rear their heads when we find out about them through an offense,” he said.
The item was left pending in committee.
A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on the bill, but said the company's policy bars convicted sex offenders from joining.
If Facebook gets a complaint about a convicted sex offender using the site, staff will verify their sex offender status, “and then immediately disable their account and remove their all information associated with it from Facebook,” the policy states.
- Yeah, they discriminate against people, but what if a person is found to be a gang member, drug dealer, murderer or identity thief? Just because someone wears the label doesn't mean they are using Facebook for criminal means.