Published: Tue, February 28, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

Supreme Court weighs NC law banning sex offenders from Facebook

With a nod to the importance of social media in American life, the Supreme Court signaled Monday it could strike down a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites. He was convicted of indecent liberties of a minor and was required to register as a sex offender, "a designation that lasts 30 years".

But they found it hard to defend North Carolina's law, passed in 2008 as a way to add "virtual" neighborhoods to the physical locations - such as schools and playgrounds - from which sex offenders are barred.

North Carolina has attempted even greater restrictions.

In 2010, Lester Packingham was arrested for thanking Jesus.

"The law does not operate in some sleepy First Amendment quarter", Goldberg said.

A 21-year-old college student at the time, Packingham was originally indicted in Cabarrus County on two counts of statutory rape of a 13-year-old. Packingham was prosecuted, convicted of a felony and received a suspended prison sentence.

In 2008, North Carolina amended its sex-offender registry law by adding its prohibition on those on the registry from accessing "commercial social networking Web sites". The North Carolina man took to Facebook to share the good news, posting, "No fine, No court costs, no nothing spent...."

A Durham police officer investigated Packingham's post and determined he used an alias rather than his real name.

Kennedy continued, flatly saying that if Burson is the state's only case supporting its argument, "Y$3 ou lose".

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Robert Montgomery, the senior deputy attorney general for the North Carolina Department of Justice, tried to cast the law is as extension of the strides that states have made for years to keep sex offenders away from schools, playgrounds, day cares and parks. The state court noted that Packingham could still use other websites, and that the law furthered a governmental interest of protecting children. "Now parents have to worry about predators being present, in a virtual sense, in laptops in their children's bedrooms and on phones their teenagers carry with them nearly everywhere they go".

Supporters of such laws say they aren't violating sex offenders' free speech, merely the place and manner of their speech, but the trouble arises in laws that are written so broadly as to encompass the entire internet - and perhaps in 2008 it was not clear that virtually every website was going to have a social media component within a few years. "There's a concern here for the safety of children". Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the premise that the law is necessary to prevent sexual abuse of minors.

Whatever argument you had about Twitter being a minimal restriction on a person's rights are blown apart when the President of United States uses it as his main form of communication.

"So you're reading the "such as" as a requirement, but "such as" is not a requirement", Kagan said.

"Not only the president", Kagan continued. But in fact, everybody uses Twitter. "So, this has become a crucial, crucially important channel of political communication".

"These offenders can go to these sites and can quietly lurk and find out information", he said.

Nationwide, an estimated 850,000 people are on sex offender registries.

If this law is struck down, it would affect 20,000 sex offenders now registered in North Carolina.

"So why is that?" "It blinks reality to suggest that sexual predators do not use social media to further their crimes", the state maintains. "They just can't say it on Facebook", said Clark. He claimed he didn't know her age.

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