Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from social media violates the First Amendment's free speech clause. Its law must be held invalid. "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights". Separately, many states limit internet use as a condition of parole or probation. But any such laws, the decision made clear, can not simply close the Internet to those convicted of sexual crimes. His Facebook boast about beating a traffic ticket led to his conviction for violating a 2008 law aimed at keeping sex offenders off internet sites children might use. All members of the court agreed that that was too broad.

While we now may be coming to the realization that the Cyber Age is a revolution of historic proportions, we can not appreciate yet its full dimensions and vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be.

Thus, he said, the court had to be conscious in approaching constitutional questions about how access to the means of communications in that new age can be regulated by government. It banned the use of leading social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter among others.

At the February arguments in the case, North Carolina's lawyer pointed to a 1992 Supreme Court case - Burson v. Freeman, in which the court upheld a 100-foot buffer zone barring political activity outside polling places - as the basis for its argument that North Carolina's law should be upheld. As a result, he was required to register as a sex offender. No nothing. Praise be to God. Wow. He was not accused of having contacted a minor in entering his message.

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Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy emphasizes the internet's vital importance to freedom of speech.

So Packingham was convicted again, this time for using Facebook before the 30-year deadline was over. He had received a suspended jail sentence after his conviction.

Alito - joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer - found that government can not ban speech "because the ideas themselves are offensive to some of their hearers" and the disparagement clause "cannot withstand even" the relaxed scrutiny the court has assigned to reviewing regulations of commercial speech. The highest court in the land doesn't believe that to be the case.

Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston is Constitution Daily's Supreme Court correspondent.

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