Social Media Use OK for Sex Offenders, Says US Supreme Court

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Source: “Supreme Court Strikes Down Sex Offender Social Media Ban,” wmur.com, June 19, 2017

On June 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that a North Carolina law preventing convicted sex offenders from using social media violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The case (Packingham v. North Carolina) was brought by Lester Packingham, who was convicted in 2003 of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. In 2010, Packingham used his Facebook account to post information about his traffic ticket that had been dismissed. He was later arrested and convicted of violating the North Carolina law that banned any person convicted of a sex offense from using any social media site that allows minors to create personal accounts.

In its ruling on the North Carolina law, the Supreme Court stated that a “fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen… Today, one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace, particularly social media… Foreclosing access to social media altogether thus prevents users from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of American adults use social networking sites.


Sources:

Autumn Callan, “Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Sex Offender Social Media Restrictions Unconstitutional,” jurist.org, June 22, 2017

Rebecca Heilweil, “Supreme Court Says Sex Offenders Can’t Be Banned from Social Media,” forbes.com, June 20, 2017

US Supreme Court, Packingham v. North Carolina, supremecourt.gov, June 19, 2017

Richard Wolf, “Supreme Court Says Sex Offenders Can Use Social Media,” usatoday.com, June 20, 2017