Supreme Court justices defend social media, even for sex offenders

For the new charge, police pointed to a state law that forbids registered sex offenders from going on social media sites that can be accessed by minors. More than 1,000 cases have been prosecuted under the same state law violated by Packingham.

In the state of North Carolina, registered sex offenders must not only go through the usual procedures and inconveniences as a result of their sexual crimes, but must also stay off of Facebook and other social media sites for 30 years after their conviction.

The law's supporters contend that it doesn't regulate what sex offenders say, just the time, place and manner of their speech, which most people understand through the legal maxim that you can't yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater. The judges will have to decide if there's another forum that can accomplish the same type of communication.

Packingham also claims the state law's definition of "social media" is too broad and too vague, and that it could even ban people from access to websites like "bettycrocker.com" because they let visitors interact with one another.

Hearing arguments in Washington, a majority of the justices indicated they read the law as going too far in restricting First Amendment rights and cutting off services that have become nearly indispensable to millions of Americans.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on whether that law violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. "In 2008, North Carolina made a decision to prohibit sex offenders from being at virtual places where children congregate online-specifically, commercial social networking websites". Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg echoed those sentiments, telling the North Carolina official defending the law that barring sex offenders from social networking sites would cut them off from "a very large part of the marketplace in ideas". North Carolina. Lester Packingham is a registered sex offender who ran afoul of North Carolina's law when he took to Facebook to "praise God" for the dismissal of his traffic tickets.

"Sexual predators became increasingly adept at using social media to gather intimate information about minors' social lives, families, hobbies, hangouts, and the like", North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein's office said in a brief.

"No fine. No Court costs".

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"A Durham, N.C., police officer who had logged onto Facebook to see whether any registered sex offenders had been using the site" when he found Packingham's post.

A 21-year-old college student at the time, Packingham was indicted in Cabarrus County on two counts of statutory rape of a 13-year-old. "So, this has become a crucial, crucially important channel of political communication". But this law "bars offenders from taking what is often the critical first step in the sexual assault of a child".

Other justices, however, were more skeptical about the state's arguments.

The state said it's the virtual equivalent of keeping child predators out of playgrounds, parks and schools.

The criteria says such sites allow users to create a profile or webpage containing personal information, "such as" their name or nickname, photographs, and links to other personal web pages of their friends that others can access.

A loud burst of laughter filled the courtroom when Kagan scoffed at Montgomery's suggestion that she read the regulation it with an implied colon after the word contained, followed by the four requirements.

"So you exempt any website that provides only a chat room or only photo sharing", Kagan asked.

"I think that does not help you".

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