Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

US Supreme Court strikes down NC sex offender social media ban

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that a North Carolina law prohibiting sex offenders from using social media was unconstitutional.

On Monday, Kennedy wrote the court's opinion, highlighting the state's reliance on Burson and noting, "That case gives little or no support to the state", explaining that the polling place-barrier was "a limited restriction" aimed at "protect [ing] another fundamental right - the right to vote" and that the restriction is "far less onerous" than North Carolina's law at issue here.

The newest Justice, Neil M. Gorsuch, did not take part in the decision.

'This North Carolina law keeps registered sex offenders off of social networking websites that kids use without denying the offenders access to the internet.

The justices rejected the state's argument that the law must be broad in order to protect minors on the Internet, saying North Carolina did not meet the burden of showing why its "sweeping law" was "necessary or legitimate to serve that objective". Praise be to God. Wow.

The law, which bans sexual offenders from using websites like Facebook and Twitter, violates the First Amendment, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion (PDF). And he took as a given, for the sake of argument, that states could "enact specific, narrowly tailored laws that prohibit a sex offender from engaging in conduct that often presages a sexual crime". His opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The case before the court focused on a sex offender prosecuted after posting on Facebook about beating a traffic ticket. He appealed the conviction on First Amendment grounds, all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The challenge was brought by Lester Gerard Parkingham Jr., a registered sex offender in North Carolina, who faced additional charges after Durham police found a Facebook page he created under an assumed name. "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard".

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas cautioned that Kennedy's "loose rhetoric" could prevent states from taking any measures to restrict convicted sex offenders on the internet.

Having said that, however, Alito also disputed any suggestion that cyberspace is, as he put it, "the 21st century equivalent of public streets and parks", which would leave states with "little ability to restrict the sites that may be visited by even the most unsafe sex offenders". The Justice added that even convicted criminals - and in some instances, especially convicted criminals - might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.

Related News: