by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 28th 2007 12:14am
Over the years, there's been plenty of talk about banning internet usage for criminals who used the internet in the commission of a crime. This has always seemed both excessive and totally impractical as the internet became a bigger and bigger part of our every day lives. Would it mean you couldn't use a VoIP phone service, for example? Would it mean you couldn't book an airplane flight if the only way to book was online? Luckily, courts have been tossing out these lifetime internet bans as unconstitutional. However, New Jersey has now instituted a new law that would ban some sex offenders from using the web. It does seem much more limited than a complete ban. First, it only applies to those sex offenders who used the web to prey on their victims -- and it does appear to allow some exceptions, such as if you need to use the internet for work. However, given how much the internet has become a part of people's lives these days, it still seems a bit extreme to ban all other uses outside of work. As more entertainment options move online, will this law mean you can't download (legally) movies and music? I certainly have little sympathy for those who used the internet to prey on victims, but it still seems a bit excessive to pass laws that involve such widespread blanket bans on internet usage. If they're allowed in this case, they may start to be allowed for other cases involving crimes where the internet was used as a tool. It's always easy for politicians to pass laws "to protect the children" against sex offenders -- because no one wants to vote against such a thing. However, when those laws potentially could lead to excessive punishments for both those offenders and eventually to others, they should be carefully scrutinized.
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