The Supreme Court heard a case last winter on whether a convicted sex offender can access social media sites.
The case revolved around a North Carolina law which barred convicted sex offenders from utilizing sites like Facebook or Twitter.
The Court announced its decision on Monday, and it was unanimous 8-0 decision!
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a state law limiting access for registered sex offenders to websites like Facebook.
The North Carolina law had made it a felony to log onto certain sites that are “known” to allow minors to access. Under that law, convicted sex offender Lester Packingham was arrested after police noticed a 2010 Facebook posting celebrating the dismissal of a traffic ticket.
In the majority opinion on Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded, “It is well established that, as a general rule, the Government ‘may not suppress lawful speech as the means to suppress unlawful speech.’ That is what North Carolina has done here. Its law must be held invalid.”
Packingham was convicted for the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl back in 2002. Packingham was 21.
Amy Howe from SCOTUSblog says Justice Kennedy reasoned that North Carolina’s law was far too broad. Kennedy said it’s possible to narrow the law, but right now it stops a citizen from using a vital function of our society.
Like it or not, social media is where many get their news, share ideas, engage in political thought, and check for possible employment. Kennedy said by stopping Packingham from visting Facebook, North Carolina stomped all over his free speech rights.
In an argument that I even sympathize with, Justice Samuel Alito differed a bit, saying states must have leeway to protect citizens from online predators. While Alito agreed with the majority, he took issue with Kennedy’s stance that cyberspace is akin to a public park.
As Howe concludes, be prepared for similar cases to appear in front of the Supreme Court.
I’m sticking with my original thoughts on the case. The North Carolina law went too far. If someone pays for their crime, they have the everyday rights the rest of us enjoy. That means using the Internet since it’s so interwoven in our lives.
That doesn’t mean states shouldn’t have any kind of power to fight against a sex offender from striking again.
It’s a tough issue, but we do have a Constitution that puts high value on freedom of speech. Had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of North Carolina, the First Amendment would be under constant assault to a point where it no longer had teeth.