Facebook ban for Sex Offenders in North Carolina - Constitutional?

Facebook Rights for Sex Offenders

The Supreme Court case of Packingham v. North Carolina has the potential to significantly influence the way in which Americans access social media. Justices of the Supreme Court during a recent session repeatedly asked questions suggesting that the Justices felt that the North Carolina law in question was a violation of the First Amendment. There is a potential that this case will be decided in such a manner that favors First Amendment rights and grants increased freedom of speech rights to individuals.

North Carolina’s Social Media Law

The law in question prohibits registered sex offenders in the state of North Carolina from accessing commercial social media sites like Facebook that are frequented by minor. The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld this restriction on the basis that the law is important to block access to social media sites for sex offenders in order to protect young individuals from being “preyed” upon by sex offenders.

The Responses by the Supreme Court Justices

Many individuals are not aware that the First Amendment protects both an individual’s right to speak as well as to receive information. During the Supreme Court case in question, several Justices expressed opinions in favor of First Amendments Rights.

Justice Kagan brought up the point that the individual would be prohibited from discovering what the President had said on Twitter as a result of this block. Justice Kennedy compared social media to today’s version of a public square. Justice Breyer also expressed concern that the Facebook restriction was too broadly drawn to achieve any sort of a public goal.

The state lawyer arguing against the defendant argued that social-networking law is more similar to the ban on politicking within one hundred feet of a polling place. Justice Kennedy responded that this one hundred foot zone law still allowed individuals the ability to participate in political speech.

Other Arguments Against This Law

Some individuals who have argued against this restriction have raised the point that sex crimes directed at children are often perpetrated by family members and acquaintances. Additionally, these social media restrictions make it much more difficult to find employment and maintain strong family connections, which can be challenging enough after one is convicted as a sexual offender.

In addition to seeming support from various Supreme Court justices, there are various groups that have filed briefs in support of the individual including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Cato Institute. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has commented that the law is one of a growing number of laws that strip constitutional rights from individuals.

The Future of North Carolina’s Social Media Law

Many legal sources have argued that the Supreme Court is likely to rule in favor of free speech and the First Amendment in this case and rule that North Carolina could potentially use a less restrictive way to keep sex offenders from using social media. This recent change is but one of many cases that suggest how the law is struggling to keep up with rapid changes in technology.

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