A unanimous decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals appeared to pave the way for removal of social networking restrictions on convicted sex offenders, until the NC Supreme Court stepped in and reinstated the ban, at least temporarily. According to the Court of Appeals, the restrictions against using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other online communication tools were an unconstitutional restriction on the free speech of those who’ve been convicted of a sex offense.
The NC Supreme Court, however, agreed with the argument that using social media sites might put a person who was convicted of a felony sex offense in contact with children – often sex offender sentencing includes a prohibition against contact with minors.
The Facebook issue is front and center after Lester Packingham successfully appealed his felony conviction for violating the social media prohibition. Durham police had discovered Packingham’s Facebook page after North Carolina passed the social media restrictions on convicted sex offenders. The department found the Facebook page after conducting searches of MySpace and Facebook for the purpose of enforcing the social media restrictions. Packinginham had been convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child in 2002.
According to Packingham’s attorney, the North Carolina was so broad that it could prohibit most common online activities, such as conducting a Google search or using the Amazon platform because those sites have related, even though secondary, personal profile areas.
The North Carolina Supreme Court’s move is not permanent; it is simply a method of gaining time for state attorneys to determine how they will move forward in attempting to have the social media restrictions permanently reinstated.
Source: NewsObserver, “NC keeps social networking ban for sex offenders,” August 30, 2013