Thursday, October 28, 2010

Once again, the legislature fails to protect children from internet predators

From the Globe:

A federal judge blocked yesterday a new state Internet obscenity law meant to shield children from sexually explicit material, ruling that the statute was written so broadly that it would criminalize legitimate websites and general electronic communication.

The decision was celebrated by civil rights advocates, but it frustrated prosecutors who have encountered difficulty in convicting Internet predators under outdated laws that fail to cover new technologies.

“Due to this preliminary injunction, we are unable to enforce this much needed law,’’ said Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, whose office prosecuted the online predator case that led to yesterday’s ruling.

In that case, a Beverly man was convicted of sending sexually explicit instant messages to a deputy sheriff posing as a 13-year-old girl. But the convictions were overturned in February by the Supreme Judicial Court, which said Massachusetts law did not cover Internet communication and urged the Legislature to update the statute.

After lawmakers hastily passed new language, a coalition of booksellers and website publishers sued, arguing that the new law would hold criminally liable anyone who operates a website with nudity or sexual material, potentially including a vast range of subjects, from art to health information on pregnancy. They said the law failed to distinguish between open websites and obscene material sent knowingly to a child.

In granting a preliminary injunction against the law yesterday, US District Judge Rya W. Zobel said the plaintiffs demonstrated “without question’’ that the law violated the First Amendment by inhibiting free speech, which civil rights advocates called a clear victory.

If elected, I will consult with the ACLU before proposing any laws that stop free speech or any laws that will end up being challenged in Federal court. So many well intentioned, but carelessly thrown together, not thought out well, laws face constitutional challenge. Many of these half-assed laws do nothing to stop or prevent more problems and are nightmares to enforce. This makes at least three laws, Bulling, Texting and now the predator law that don't do anything to resolve the problem.