The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the courts to block provisions of California's new voter-approved law targeting human trafficking.
Proposition 35, which passed with 81 percent of the vote Tuesday, enacts harsher penalties for persons convicted of crimes related to human trafficking, a concept that gained broad support in polls and at the ballot box. But a less-noticed provision in the measure requires registered sex offenders to disclose to authorities aliases and service providers they use online.
American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California arm and Electronic Frontier Foundation believe that unconstitutionally restricts the First Amendment rights of registered sex offenders in the states. The groups filed a lawsuit challenging just those provisions related to the Internet identifiers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Wednesday on behalf of two registered sex offenders and a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws.
"Requiring people to give up their right to speak freely and anonymously about civic matters is unconstitutional, and restrictions like this damage robust discussion and debate on important and controversial topics," EFF attorney Hanni Fakhoury said in a statement. "When the government starts gathering online profiles for one class of people, we all need to worry about the precedent it sets."
Chris Kelly, the former attorney general candidate and Facebook chief privacy officer who bankrolled Proposition 35, dismissed the lawsuit as "an attack on the very idea of sex offender registration requirements to protect kids and adults alike." He said the the enhanced registration requirements ensures "law enforcement has better information to fight trafficking and apply the law online."
The court granted the challengers' request for a temporary restraining order to halt implementation of the law late Wednesday, writing that the "Plaintiffs have raised serious questions about whether the challenged sections of the CASE Act violate their First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights." The temporary restraining order noted that enforcement based on the registry submissions was not expected to begin until March of next year.
Editor's note: This post was updated at 6 p.m. with the court's action.