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Appeals court overturns ban on sex offenders using Facebook

In this photo illustration, a Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through a magnifying glass held by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012. Picture take...
Reuters file

An Indiana law barring sex offenders from joining social and online networks like Facebook, Twitter and various chat rooms was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appellate court Wednesday.

Judges with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said that the law, passed in 2008, violates the First Amendment in that it is too broad a ban.

"Laws that implicate the First Amendment require narrow tailoring,"  the judges said in a written decision. "Subsequent Indiana statutes may well meet this requirement, but the blanket ban on social media in this case regrettably does not."

A Facebook spokesman told NBC News Wednesday that sex offenders already are barred from using Facebook, and that the social network's internal teams monitor the site for such activity.

The ACLU had challenged the ban, saying that even though the law was meant to protect children from online sexual predators, social networks and other sites have become so vital to Americans that a total ban would prevent sex offenders from using sites for legitimate reasons, including business and religious activities.

The 7th Circuit's ruling overturned a U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the ban.

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This story was updated at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.