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Following the proposed Indiana law barring sex offenders from using social networks being struck down, over 20,000 registered sex offenders in Georgia — 142 of them in Athens alone — are safe from facing future social media restrictions as a result of their crimes. Screenshot by Carey O'Neil

The ratio of citizens to registered sex offenders in the state of Georgia is 529:1.

While a bill of this sort has not been proposed in Georgia, a proposed Indiana law barring sex offenders from using social networks was struck down Jan. 23.

The bill was struck down for being a violation of the first amendment.

Nothing has been proposed in Georgia, and more than 20,000 registered sex offenders in Georgia — 142 of them in Athens alone — may be safe from facing future social media restrictions as a result of their crimes.

Once considered to have one of the toughest sex offender restrictions in the nation, Georgia laws were changed to appeal to critics. Between 2007 and 2010 — the year in which the laws were changed — thousands of sex offenders were removed from the registry to give those with minor misconducts a chance to live a normal life.

But many people find the idea of giving rapists and child molesters a second chance to be wrong.

“I was not aware of the removal, but, now knowing, I think that’s weird for people to be just taken off the list,” said Tori Riggle, a freshman from McDonough majoring in music education.

While restrictions include not being able to live near or be employed at schools or other child facilities, no Georgia law banning sex offenders from any use of the internet or social networking sites is in effect.

John Bankhead, the director of public affairs at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said while there “could have been at some point, I am not aware of any current legislative proposals.”

The legislation was cast down in Indiana on the belief it infringed on sex offenders’ first amendment rights. But many states may take initiative and propose a law of this nature with hopes of going around the first amendment.

Although Georgia could follow suit and explore the realm of barring sex offenders from aspects of internet use, there can be “no way of knowing what legislation might be introduced,” Bankhead said.

The Athens-Clarke County Police department, however, ensured the safety of the community through last year’s county-wide check on registered sex offenders.  

The police have done as much as possible to guarantee safety, but technology has also given a helping hand in keeping track of sex offenders, with dozens of websites and smart phone apps that inform people on the name, age, offense and address of every registered sex offender anywhere in the nation.

“I use the websites, and I feel they help,” Riggle said.