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The Supreme Court Rejects Law Keeping Sex Offenders Off Facebook

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The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a law that banned sex offenders from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The Court ruled in favor of convicted North Carolina sex offender Lester Packingham Jr. who was caught on Facebook posting about beating a traffic ticket back in 2010. The North Carolina law, on the books since 2008, sought to keep sex offenders off of websites that children might use.

In 2010, a Durham police officer was patrolling Facebook when he came across a post by Packingham, who registered as a sex offender after pleading guilty to taking indecent liberties with a child after originally being indicted for statutory rape years earlier.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, saying, “To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”

However, Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas warned that the ruling, and Kennedy’s “loose rhetoric,” could make it harder for state’s to police (or restrict) sex offenders’ use of the internet. “This language is bound to be interpreted by some to mean that the states are largely powerless to restrict even the most dangerous sexual predators from visiting any internet sires, including for example internet dating sites,” Alito wrote.

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.

It’s a busy time at the Supreme Court with the term coming to an end in the next couple of weeks. It was announced earlier that the court would soon hear a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin which, like the North Carolina voter ID law that the court recently refused to hear, could have a nation-wide impact.

(via New York Times)



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