Supreme Court strikes down NC sex offender social media ban

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The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a state law limiting access for registered sex offenders to websites like Facebook. In doing so, the Supreme Court asserted what we all know to be true: Posting is essential to the survival of the republic.

Packingham originally pleaded guilty in 2002 to taking indecent liberties with a child. He was convicted in 2010 of violating the statute when he posted a message on Facebook expressing his surprise at a traffic citation against him being dismissed.

The court has ruled that in this day and age if someone isn't on a social network, they will not be able to frequently interact with society even if they have the purest of motives. No fine, no court cost, no nothing spent.

Justice Kennedy's opinion, speaking for himself and four other Justices, made clear that states would remain free to pass narrower laws that made it a crime to use the Internet explicitly to carry out a crime, such as child molestation. At this early stage, the opinion added, "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". On Twitter, users can petition their elected representatives and otherwise engage with them in a direct manner.

While the decision was unanimous, Justice Neil Gorsuch did not partake in the consideration or decision of this case, as he was not on the Court at the time it was argued. He appealed the conviction on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment all the way up to the Supreme Court. "It is cyberspace", Kennedy wrote.


The justices ruled unanimously in favor of North Carolina resident Lester Packingham Jr. "Social media allows users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind". "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard. This law works to put a preventive barrier, to prevent that sex offender from going on line to start with".

Justice Alito wrote a concurring opinion.

While many states have laws that require sex offenders to report their internet activity or limit it as a condition of parole or probation, Louisiana is the only state with a similar law, though it only applies to those convicted of sex crimes with children.

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 risky sex offenders".

He wrote, "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".

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