“In sum, to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”
– Justice Anthony Kennedy
Last week on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision regarding the rights of convicted sex offenders to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. In essence, the Court found that the First Amendment right to freedom of speech outweighs North Carolina’s law prohibiting convicted sex offenders from using sites that minor children may also use.
North Carolina’s law reads, in part, as follows:
- “It is unlawful for a sex offender […] to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members […]”
Section 14-202.5 of the criminal code defines a commercial social networking site in part as one that “facilitates the social introduction between two or more persons for the purposes of friendship, meeting other persons, or information exchanges.”
A violation results in a Class I felony; it is likely that the North Carolina legislature wanted to put significant pressure on people not to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. However, the underlying problem is that social media is largely where people conduct their exercise of free speech these days.
- Supreme Court Strikes Down Sex Offender Social Media Ban ( New York Times)
- Ban use of commercial social networking Web sites by sex offenders (North Carolina statutes)