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SF Judge To Hear Motion To Block Sex Offender Internet Disclosure Requirement

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A computer keyboard. (CBS)

A computer keyboard. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A federal judge will hear arguments in San Francisco Monday morning on a motion to block a voter initiative’s requirement that California’s 73,000 registered sex offenders must give police a list of their online screen names and Internet service providers.

The provision is part of Proposition 35, a ballot initiative intended to crack down on sex trafficking. The measure was approved by 81 percent of state voters in November.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson will consider a bid by two anonymous offenders and a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws for a preliminary injunction suspending the measure until a full trial is held on their civil rights lawsuit challenging the provision.

Henderson last month issued a temporary restraining order blocking the requirement for the time being, saying that the lawsuit raised “serious questions” about whether the provision violated the constitutional First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, contend the requirement infringes on their right to discuss law reform and other topics online anonymously. They also argue the requirement violates their due process right because it is allegedly overly broad and unclear.

The lawsuit does not challenge other provisions of Proposition 35 that increase sentences and fines for people convicted of sex trafficking.

The initiative drive was led by Chris Kelly, a former Facebook chief privacy officer, and Daphne Phung, the founder of a group called Californians Against Slavery.
They have said the disclosure requirement is intended to “help combat the rampant use of the Internet and social media for sexual exploitation of minors and women.”

At Monday’s hearing, Henderson will also consider a bid by Kelly and Phung to join the state Attorney General’s Office as official parties in the case to defend the initiative.

The Attorney General’s Office has told the judge that state officials will not be able to enforce the requirement until March.

Henderson could either rule on the motions from the bench or issue a written decision at a later date.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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