Supreme Court to Decide Social Media Website Use By Sex Offenders

Once again, North Carolina finds itself at the forefront of conflict over a controversial law. Last year, its law over bathroom use by transgender individuals caused a stir. Now, a North Carolina state law prohibiting convicted sex offenders from “accessing” social media websites is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was enacted several years ago in response to the idea that social media websites (such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook) may be used by sexual predators to lure minors.

The case now before the U.S. Supreme Court involves a Durham, North Carolina man named Lester Packingham who became a registered sex offender following a guilty plea to “indecent liberties with a minor” in 2002. In 2012, ten years after his conviction, Packingham was arrested and subsequently convicted for violating the newly enacted law. He was arrested after a police officer saw a Facebook post in which he celebrated the dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring “God is Good!”. The North Carolina law does not take in account what type of material was written; any type of access to the banned website by a registered sex offender is an automatic felony.

The U.S. Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the law and oral arguments are expected to begin in early 2017. The decision will help further define the balance between keeping the public safe and maintaining personal liberties.