Law Bars Kid-Teacher Facebooking, Row Erupts

Missouri passes first major social media speech restriction
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Aug 4, 2011 4:01 AM CDT
Missouri is shutting down private conversations between students and teachers.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Missouri has passed a law barring private Facebook messages between children and teachers, and lots of people aren't happy about it. The first law of its kind in the nation will still allow messages easily viewed by the school community between teachers and children concerning assignments, but all exclusive one-on-one communication on any social media site will be barred. The law is an attempt to help prevent inappropriate sexual conversations between minors and adults, and the possibility of abuse. The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act is named after a student sexually abused by a junior high teacher. Facebook is already investigating the law for a possible legal challenge, and some critics say the measure is a ham-handed approach that fails to increase awareness among young consumers of social media sites.

"It's missing an opportunity, an obligation, for us to guide young people in the appropriate use of technology," one expert tells the Christian Science Monitor. Defenders say the state is simply stepping up protection without squelching communication. “This law in no way stops communication with students,” said the GOP state senator who sponsored the bill. "We encourage social-media contact with students. We just require it to be appropriate, meaning it is not hidden from parents or from school personnel.” An ACLU spokesman argued that it "silences a lot more speech than is necessary to attack the problem."

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