Dealing with gang activity is certainly a priority in areas beset by gang violence, but does that mean we throw out certain First Amendment rights? Last year, Florida passed a new anti-gang law that banned using electronic communications "for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a criminal gang" and that included "advertis[ing] his or her presence in the community" via an online image or video. Apparently, authorities in Florida have now arrested 15 people under this law
based on their MySpace profiles, including one 14-year-old who "posted pictures of himself dressed in gang colors and displaying gang hand signals." For this, all of those arrested now face up to 5 years in prison. Some are already protesting the constitutionality of this law. It certainly seems like a limit on free expression.
Even recognizing the problems with gang violence, it seems a bit extreme to arrest people and threaten them with jailtime just for posting such photos on their profiles. Why not use that information to track and monitor certain gang members to try to stop actual
illegal gang activity? Here are kids advertising
to anyone (including the police) that they're in a gang, which should make it easier
for the police to follow them and use that info to deal with real gang activity.