When CJ left prison, he felt it would be best to start fresh. Friends had always told him that he had the makings of a salesman, so he decided to start an online store selling thrift and liquidation products. To increase his business, he opened a Facebook Marketplace Store, which was a hit. Local customers could purchase from him without having to pay for shipping and talk to him directly about any concerns. Soon, CJ was making enough money that he could make a full time living from his business.
“I was excited to find a platform that would allow me to be a productive member of society while providing value to my neighbors. The sky was the limit as my income would be directly proportional to the amount of work and effort I put into it…and I’ve never been scared of hard work.”
But his success was short-lived.
One morning CJ discovered his account had been closed and he could no longer access his Marketplace Store. Without access to Facebook, CJ’s business suffered.
The loss of my Facebook business was devastating. It’s hard enough with a conviction to find meaningful employment, and suddenly a main source of revenue dried up.
At first CJ didn’t understand why his account was closed. He had finished his probation and was unaware of any restrictions that might affect his online business.
As it turns out, Facebook had discovered that CJ was on his state’s sex offense registry and in accordance with their no-registrant policy, they shut down his Marketplace Store without notice.
“Facebook removed my entire account. I not only lost my store, but I lost access to all of my family, friends, and business contacts. Facebook knows I have never used the platform as anything other than a gateway for community and income. In modern society, not having access to this social media platform is like being denied electricity or water. I understand that they think they are protecting their users, but the facts simply don’t support that.”
What are those facts?
First, that recidivism rates for registrants are very low, yet Facebook’s policy is based on the MYTH that all registrants will reoffend. Some 95% never commit another sexual offense. Second, staying connected with family and friends helps to reduce recidivism even more, so it is in everyone’s best interest to allow these connections to be made and maintained. And third, our communities are safer when registrants are engaged, connected, and productive. Everyone wants safer communities, don’t they?
Can anything be done for CJ and others like him?
After all, Facebook is a private company, and it has the right to set its own policy. Asking Facebook to allow persons on the registry to access its marketplace for business would be a good start. Most people, registrants included, just want a chance to lead productive lives and contribute to society in a positive way. Arbitrary obstacles like Facebook’s no-registrant policy are based on the myth that registrants can’t change. These obstacles make life harder for CJ and others in the same situation to make positive changes in their lives.
If you agree that people on the registry deserve a chance to be productive members of our communities, then please join NARSOL and contribute your time, talents and resources to our cause!