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.
Recently, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was unconstitutional to ban registered sex offenders from using social media. The law that the court considered was an Indiana state law not unlike North Carolina's own prohibition against the use of sites like Facebook or Twitter by convicted sex offenders.
Earlier this week, we posted about a cell phone search of a Rhode Island woman's phone that led to criminal charges being filed against her boyfriend in the death of her 6-year-old son. The Rhode Island legislature has since acted to require police to obtain a search warrant before going through a person's email, text messages or voice mails stored on a cell phone.
Your casual conversations over Facebook and other websites may be monitored for evidence of sex offenses. Using both technology and human employees, Facebook and many other companies watch their websites for signs of Internet sex crimes worldwide, including North Carolina. The results are varied.
In 2007, Kimberly Watkins of Fayetteville was convicted on several charges of child sex crimes. She was recently arrested for having a Facebook account, a violation of a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from using the majority of online social media sites.
Maybe. With a few successes throughout the United States, some registered sex offenders are fighting for access to Facebook claiming that restrictions against using social media websites and participating in online discussion forums is a violation of rights protected by the First Amendment. There is a fine balance between protecting children from online exploitation and walking all over another person's Constitutional rights after a sex offense conviction.
A Swannanoa, North Carolina woman was arrested earlier this month and charged with two counts of using social networking sites as a registered sex offender. A Buncombe County judge set her bail at $5,000.The Swannanoa woman had been convicted of participating in the prostitution of a minor in North Carolina back in 1996. The charge and conviction in Randolph County led to a two-month stint in prison, after which she was released and forced to register as a sex offender.As we've discussed previously, North Carolina's General Assembly passed a law that went into effect in 2009 prohibiting all registered sex offenders from maintaining a personal profile with any social networking site. Offenders are still allowed to use the internet for legitimate business purposes and for social email communication, but sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are off-limits.
Social media use is in the rise, with social information-sharing sites such as Facebook and Foursquare counting thousands of additional users as new members each week. For however exciting this new information frontier may be, it poses just as many ethical and legal considerations that will need to be ironed out over the years to come.
A Carteret County registered sex offender is charged with having a social networking site. A citizen notified the Carteret County Sheriff's Office that Newport resident Timothy Howard Newman, 35, had an online profile on Facebook, the popular social networking site.