May 22, 2018

Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

20 June 2017, 12:44 | Guillermo Sutton

The justices unanimously ruled that it's fine for convicted sex offenders to use social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn, as long as they aren't breaking the law while doing so. With the exception of Neil Gorsuch, who did not participate in the case because he was not on the Court when it was argued, every justice agreed that the law's broad scope can not be reconciled with the First Amendment. How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started?

Three conservative Justices-John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas-agreed that the law violates free speech, but said Kennedy's opinion went too far in suggesting states have a very limited role in restricting unlimited Internet access from "dangerous sexual predators".

In 2010, he was convicted of violating that law when, following a state court's dismissal of a traffic ticket he had received, he logged on to Facebook and praised that decision, saying "Man God is Good!.Thanks JESUS!".

Packingham was on North Carolina's sex offender list because of his 2002 conviction at age 21 on two counts of statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

Alito, in agreeing that "the law in question can not satisfy the standard applicable to a content-neutral regulation", also wrote that the majority spoke too glowingly about the Internet.

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Citing the court's earlier cases protecting speech in public squares or parks as "a quintessential forum for the exercise of First Amendment rights", Kennedy noted that it might have been hard, "in a spatial sense", to determine those most important places. "The Court is unable to resist musings that seem to equate the entirety of the Internet with public streets and parks", Alito wrote.

"Foreclosing access to social media altogether thus prevents users from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights". "This language is bound to be interpreted by some to mean that the states are largely powerless to restrict even the most risky sexual predators from visiting any internet sires, including for example internet dating sites", Alito wrote.

The state said the law came out of concern that convicted sex offenders would use such social media platforms to anonymously gather information about minors and identify future victims.

He said social media sites - and Facebook in particular - have become the premier place for political conversations among Americans, and are also used for communications from elected officials to their constituents. "Even convicted criminals-and in some instances especially convicted criminals-might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, particularly if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives".

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