United States justices skeptical of sex offender social media ban

Posted February 28, 2017

In the state of North Carolina, registered sex offenders must not only go through the usual procedures and inconveniences as a result of their sexual crimes, but must also stay off of Facebook and other social media sites for 30 years after their conviction. And yet, in North Carolina and many other states, laws limit basic First Amendment rights.

36, a registered sex offender who posted on Facebook back in 2010 celebrating his dismissed traffic ticket, according to the SCOTUS blog. North Carolina, an appeal from a registered sex offender who was convicted in 2008 of using social media. The state court noted that Packingham could still use other websites, and that the law furthered a governmental interest of protecting children.

Yet North Carolina's lawyers argue that protecting children from online sexual predators is more important, and more hard, than ever.

Duringoral arguments on Monday, several justices discussed the importance of social media as a means of political and religious communication, and seemed concerned that laws limiting the use of such platforms could violate the First Amendment, which protects free expression and free religion.

Justice Elena Kagan asked him about the rise of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and their role in political discourse.

"The practical effect [of North Carolina's law] is to bar registered sex offenders not merely from the school, the playground, and even the town square, but from entire regions of the country where their fellow citizens are gathered for the objective of information exchange about any and all subjects of human inquiry", says a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Packingham's side by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"In essence, states have said that sex offenders can't go into the public square", Montgomery said, adding later that sex offenders shouldn't be allowed to approach minors "in the virtual world, either".

"In 2008, North Carolina chose to prohibit sex offenders from being at virtual places where children congregate online - specifically, commercial social networking websites", Montgomery said.

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Countering that argument, lawyers for Packingham contend that the statute punishes far more speech than "the miniscule fraction" the state is legitimately anxious about. The law doesn't apply only to people who used the Internet to commit a sexual offense, she stressed, but instead applies to everyone.

A decision to strike down North Carolina's law would mark the second time in as many years that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of greater rights on and more access to social media.

In 2014, for example, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a California law that required registered sex offenders to provide authorities with a "list of any and all internet identifiers established or used by the person".

Packingham received a suspended sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl he claimed to be dating when he was 21 years old. He came across a post from Packingham, who used an alias but also included a photo of himself and linked to an account used by his father and namesake.

"There's nothing that a sex offender can't say on the internet". The North Carolina man took to Facebook to share the good news, posting, "No fine, No court costs, no nothing spent...."

Local police saw a Facebook post he wrote, which read "Praise be to GOD. WOW!"

The justices in Packingham v.

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