A Missouri judge has blocked a law from taking effect Sunday that would have prohibited teachers from using social networking sites such as Facebook to carry on private conversations with students. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a preliminary injunction against the law today while declaring that it "would have a chilling effect" on free speech rights. The judge put the law on hold until Feb. 20, allowing time for a hearing on whether it should be permanently blocked.
The new Missouri law would have barred teachers from using non-work-related websites that give "exclusive access" to current students or former students who are 18 or younger. That means communication through Facebook or other social networking sites would have to be done in public, rather than through private messages. Teachers had challenged the law, saying websites such as Facebook and Twitter had become a common part of modern interaction between teachers and students.