WRAL Investigates

Law bans sex offenders from social networks, but which ones?

Posted February 28, 2012

Under a law enacted in 2008, registered sex offenders in North Carolina are not allowed to use social media websites. Since that time, the face of social media has continued to change, making the law harder and harder to figure out.

The law says registered sex offenders can't use Facebook or MySpace. Beyond that, the definition of a "social network" gets gray.

"We have found thousands of sex offenders on these social networking sites," said Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Tim Radford is a registered sex offender in Johnston County. He hasn't been in trouble since he was released from prison on drug charges in 2005. But WRAL News received a tip from someone concerned that he was on Facebook and YouTube.

After WRAL News tried to contact him about the Facebook page, it was taken down. A YouTube channel where anyone can watch Radford's videos and comment freely still exists.

Cooper said the argument can be made that YouTube is a social network site.

"You can communicate with other people. It's certainly a place where people can go to comment on videos," he said.

social networks Sex offender law has gray areas

Many websites offer message boards where users can interact. The law is not clear if that social interaction is part of the ban.

That makes obeying the rules difficult.

"It's impossible for people to know if they're violating," said Glenn Gerding, a Chapel Hill defense attorney.

He thinks the ban on social networks is unconstitutional. He argued a case on this issue and, while it was thrown out, he believes more cases will be fought until the law is clear.

"I've talked with folks at the General Assembly, and they say they know it's unconstitutional, but they don't want to be the ones that vote against it," Gerding said. "They want the courts to decide."

All sides want to protect children.

"We don't want registered sex offenders to have this tool to potentially harm people in our communities," Cooper said. But he agrees that lawmakers should go back and review the statute.

Facebook and Myspace compare their users against registered sex offender registries. If the sites identify a sex offender, their page is shut down.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • rgbreed Mar 5, 2012

    I am sorry, but I feel the same regarding your comments. As for my education, I have an AAS, and AA, a BA, and an MA; I think that covers the education part. As for being small minded, I beg to differ. I apologize if my assumption was not correct but research indicates that at least 1 in 4, and more likely, 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused by age 14. I guess you are blessed not to be in the 25 to 33%; I was not so lucky. Regardless,I am very open-minded; that is why I do not believe that all RSO's are a danger to children. All the research out there indicates otherwise. It isn't the RSO who is the greatest danger; it is the family members and/or family friends who we let into our homes. The RSO is not good policy. Yes, predators need to be registered but that only covers a small portion of registered offenders. The "indecent liberties with a minor" guy could have been 19 when she was 15. It is very likely that he is not a danger. Please educate yourself.

  • lilrednekgrl Mar 1, 2012

    Really? You Must Not Be Very Educated And You Are Very Small Minded. You Dont Know Me So Stop "Making Guesses" Because You are so Vey Wrong...... Again If They Where Keeping it in the Bed room and Not Broadcasting it, the Law would have Never found Out in the First Place. And the SOR List what type of Crime is commited. SO If i see "Anywhere in their Profile that says "INDECENT LIBERTY MINOR" And the Victims Age (generally and under).... I Automatically Know who to tell my kids to stay Away from. So As Far As the SOR Goes, It deff. lets me know where to put up the Red Flags.

  • rgbreed Mar 1, 2012

    Lilrednikgrl...Who's "moral" values? Granted, there are some things I find distasteful but I don't think they should be illegal. There are even things that don't bother me that are illegal (oral sex, nudity, etc.). I think we can all agree that sex between adults and children is not acceptable in our culture, nor is forced sex on an adult--male or female--but some of what our state considers "wrong" is more a matter of hyper morality than public safety.

    I'm sorry for what happened to you at the hands of an offender--registered or not--(just an educated guess on my part) but that doesn't make everyone who is on the SOR a monster. I was a victim, not once but twice, but I know the SOR as it stands now is not good social policy or law.

  • lilrednekgrl Feb 29, 2012

    Looking Past the Constitution..... What Happened to Moral Values? If the People on the SOR had Moral Values, then they Wouldnt Be On the registry Now Would They.

    BTW, That Statement Wasnt A "Tongue in Cheek Post" I Actually Ment What I Said.

    But You All Go Ahead And Defend them All. Wouldnt Surpise me to find out how many of you are defending yourself or a loved one.

  • TheBullCity Feb 29, 2012

    By NC's standards, pretty much everyone is a prosecution away from being a sex offender. You might want to look into NC's laws for sodomy and crimes against nature. Ever had oral sex? Better get you registered.

    Criminal records are already public record. There is no reason to have such an arbitrary system for sex offenders. Could you imagine if they let murderers go free who are likely to reoffend and created a registry? This registry doesn't keep us safe, it proves that we aren't safe. If they are likely to reoffend, hospitalize or imprison them.

  • rgbreed Feb 29, 2012

    Okay, lets get one fact straight--not all sex offenders are child molesters. They are a very small portion of the registered offenders. With that being the case, the laws are designed for a few but forced on all. I do believe we need to protect our children but the SOR is nothing more than a "feel good" law that is politically popular, but it's not based on the truth. I would worry more about educating our children than punishing someone for a crime for the rest of his or her life.

  • Carolina Pastor Feb 29, 2012

    Sex offenders should be banned from ALL social networks. There have been numerous documented cases where sex offenders use Facebook or Myspace to search for their next victim. Authorities even caught the former police chief of Landis, NC through social networks when he tried to meet up with a 14 year old.
    Job searches through Career Builder and Monster Jobs are clearly not social networking but Linked In would be.

  • Raleigh Boys Feb 29, 2012

    Is not the social media sites a mechanism for job hunting too?

  • kermit60 Feb 29, 2012

    What's to stop an offender from using any of theses sights under a made up name?

  • tran Feb 29, 2012

    As poorly written as the law is, it essentially bans sex offenders from using the internet. If interaction with others is the problem they're trying to solve, why restrict it to the internet? I get the impression lawmakers who crafted this law weren't clear on what they were trying to accomplish. They just wanted to be seen doing something, anything. And in this way, law upon law has been passed.