Facebook has banned Zen Law Guy’s account because we create content designed to help sex offenders and those who work with sex offenders. We received an email from Facebook on December 31, 2021, saying that ZLG’s “activity” violated Facebook’s “community standards.” There was no report of a complaint made, Facebook didn’t point to any specific content as the problem, and no recourse or remedy was made available. Facebook only said that ZLG’s overall content was harmful to its users.
As ZLG’s president and chief consultant, I think a response is necessary. While I’d love to post the beautifully-articulated opinion ripping apart Facebook over this ban that our IT guy sent to me, I feel an overwhelming desire to personally make a statement here.
Facebook’s Ban on Sex Offenders Creates a False Sense of Security
First and most importantly, Facebook’s ban on sex offenders, and any organizations that help sex offenders, gives Facebook users a false sense of security. This is because evidence consistently shows that nearly all sex offenses are committed by non-sex offenders. That is, sex offenses are almost always committed by someone the victim knew, not some stranger, and by someone who has never committed a sex offense.
In fact, a June 2021 study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that convicted sex offenders have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, rates of recidivism of any offense. For example, the study showed that, out of all the child pornography offenders (the most common federal sex offense by far) that were released since 2015, only 4.3% committed a new sex offense, with two-thirds of those being non-contact offenses. Compare this to another recent study by the Sentencing Commission that showed non-firearm cases had a 46.3% recidivism rate, and firearm offenders reoffended at a whopping 68.1%.
Sex offenders don’t even come close to these other, more common offenses as far as recidivism goes. Does Facebook ban those other offenders from their platform? Not at all. And sex offenders are almost always closely monitored by authorities, with software tracking every move they make online in real-time. A new offense by a sex offender would be a rare event, as the Sentencing Commission’s report shows.
Facebook’s Ban Says Sex Offenders are Hopeless
Facebook’s ban on sex offenders and organizations that support sex offenders also assumes that all sex offenders are incorrigible. That is, Facebook is effectively saying that sex offenders can’t be rehabilitated. This is completely false. Study after study shows that support and treatment of sex offenders significantly reduces the very slim chance that a sex offender might re-offend.
Facebook banning sex offenders and organizations who support them, like ZLG, promotes more “fake news” on its platform by continuing to spew falsities that sex offenders commit a majority of sex offenses. It’s just not true.
This ignores the reality that non-sex offenders are the ones who commit sex offenses, not the people who have already been “outed” and are convicted. They are the ones who don’t commit the crimes. Focusing on the ones who don’t commit the crimes allows the ones that do to have an uninhibited shot at harming a child online.
Facebook’s ban on sex offenders and their supporters could also lead to a sex offender re-offending. Ostracizing and abandoning sex offenders has been shown to lead to new crimes. This is true of any offender, not just sex offenders. By not allowing these already-exposed sex offenders to obtain support on its platform, Facebook’s ban could lead a sex offender to give up hope and re-offend. In all my years of working with sex offenders, feeling abandoned and rejected was cited as the most common trigger that started the spiral of offending. Sex offenders need support, not banishment, if people want to prevent them from re-offending.
Facebook is Exempt from Legal Liability if Someone Commits a Sex Offense
If Facebook wants to say this is about reducing their legal liability, in case a known sex offender should use Facebook to commit a sex offense, that argument is baseless. Congress exempted online content providers, like Facebook, from any legal liability under law. Title 18, sec. 2258B of the U.S. Code says that a civil or criminal charge against a provider “may not be brought in any federal or state court.” Congress created this exemption to keep social media available to those who need it, without the platforms fearing some sort of legal liability.
State Laws Banning Sex Offenders from Social Media
Federal courts have been overturning state laws that ban sex offenders from social media platforms. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s social media bad for sex offenders in Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730 (2017), similar state laws have been killed. See Jones v. Stanford, 489 F. Supp. 3d 140 (E.D.N.Y. 2020) (overturning New York`s e-STOP law banning social media access to sex offenders). The same rationale relied on in these decisions about laws applies to the actions of platforms like Facebook.
Where ZLG Stands with Social Media
Our IT guy checked with several social media platforms about their rule on sex offenders and organizations that support them using their services. Our social media accounts will be updated to include services that smartly allow sex offenders to receive support on the platforms. It’s unfortunate that the supposedly smart people at Facebook prefer to create a false sense of security for its users by banning sex offenders.
Dale Chappell, the Zen Law Guy