US Supreme Court weighs NC law banning sex offenders from social media

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on North Carolina Law Banning Sex Offenders from Facebook

North Carolina is the only state in the US with this law barring registered sex offenders from using social media sites. More than 1,000 cases have been prosecuted under the state law that ensnared Packingham.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared poised to strike down a North Carolina law banning convicted sex offenders from Facebook and other social media sites because it runs afoul of free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. Of social media, she said "this is the way people structure their civic community life". The judges will have to decide if there's another forum that can accomplish the same type of communication. Louisiana is the only other state with similar rules, although its law only blocks sex offenders convicted of crimes against children from such sites.

Packingham was convicted, but soon appealed, arguing that the law violates his First Amendment right to free speech.

There are about 20,000 registered sex offenders in North Carolina.

Can states completely bar sex offenders from social media sites like Facebook? He was given a suspended sentence and two years probation. That question goes before the Supreme Court on Monday in an important case that weighs the protection of children versus the Constitutional rights of free speech and association. North Carolina. Lester Packingham is a registered sex offender who ran afoul of North Carolina's law when he took to Facebook to "praise God" for the dismissal of his traffic tickets.

An intermediate state appellate court overturned his conviction, but the state supreme court reversed the ruling and reinstated it.

David Post, an Internet scholar who authored a friend-of-the-court brief siding with Packingham, notes that the 30-year sex offender registry means that Packingham and other former offenders who are not in prison, not under supervised release, and not repeat offenders, are still subject to limits on their liberties.




A higher power might've taken an interest in dismissing the Packingham's speeding ticket, but someone else was interested in his Facebook post: a Durham, N.C., police officer.

The state contends its social media ban was adopted to stop sexual predators from "taking what is often the critical first step in the sexual assault of a child", meaning gathering information about potential young targets.

"Parents once had to worry about predators being present in places like neighborhood parks, school playgrounds, and shopping malls", says a brief by the Council of State Governments.

But Goldberg ran into resistance from justices of all ideological stripes, some of whom suggested that perhaps the ban could survive if the court interpreted it narrowly-for example, as Justice Samuel Alito posited, by reading it as limited to "core social networking sites" like Facebook or Google Plus.

"So a person in this situation, for example, can not go onto the president's Twitter account to find out what the president is saying today?" Montgomery pushed back against the depiction of social media sites by Kagan and Ginsburg (among others) as a "crucial channel" of communication. Kagan said. "Because if I would have said, like, where the most risky activity takes place, it's in chat rooms and via photo sharing".

"There's nothing that a sex offender can't say on the internet". "I'm not sure that those have individual information about students typically, personal information that would be of the sort you get off a social networking website, which is whether a child likes puppies or whether their parents have recently been through a divorce".

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