In a landmark supreme court case, a North Carolina man was able to strike down a state law that bars registered sex offenders from registering on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
Lester Packingham Jr. was a registered sex offender after an incident between himself and a 13-year-old child, when Packingham was 21 years of age. North Carolina laws barred him and other offenders from joining social media, in a campaign that was aimed at protecting children.
Now, instead of protecting children, the supreme court has decided to protect the first amendment rights of sexual offenders.
The Daily Mail reports:
Lester Packingham Jr., a registered sex offender after having ‘indecent liberties’ with a 13-year-old girl when he was 21, won the right to use Facebook, Twitter and similar sites following the ruling on Monday.
The 36-year-old was convicted in 2010 of breaking a North Carolina law that bans sex offenders from using commercial social networking sites, over fears they could connect with children, after he took to Facebook to celebrate his traffic court victory.
‘No fine. No Court costs. No nothing. Praise be to God. Wow. Thanks, Jesus,’ he wrote. That post landed him with a felony charge and a suspended prison sentence.
His lawyers had argued that Packingham, who wrote the post under an alias on Facebook, was not using the website or his computer to communicate with minors or that he posted anything inappropriate or obscene.
They said that the law, meant to prevent communications between sex offenders and minors via social media, was so broad that it violates the Constitution’s free-speech protections.
The case reaches the Supreme Court after it was upheld by North Carolina’s highest court in a divided ruling.
Earlier this year, the court heard form groups including the libertarian Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union which argued the North Carolina law could ban sex offenders from online life that includes looking for jobs or reading the daily musings of President Donald Trump and is unconstitutional.
‘Everyday Americans understand that social media – which includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – are absolutely central to their daily life and how the First Amendment is exercised in America today,’ said Stanford law professor David Goldberg.