Does the First Amendment apply to registered sex offenders — even when social media could potentially be used for corrupt purposes?
That is the important question that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently been considering. Now, President Donald Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch and the rest of the court have made an unanimous ruling which affects the application of free speech in the 21st century.
According to TheBlaze, the highest court in the land has just overruled a law which banned registered sex offenders from accessing social media sites such as Facebook.
A North Carolina law had banned sex offenders from using those types of websites.
“It is unlawful for a sex offender who is registered … to access a commercial social networking site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages on the commercial social networking site,” declared the state regulation.
However, the Monday morning ruling by the Supreme Court has found that law and others like it to be unconstitutional.
“To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” argued Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“Even convicted criminals — and in some instances especially convicted criminals — might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives,” Kennedy continued.
All of the voting members of the Supreme Court agreed with that assessment, and the ruling was unanimous.
The question of First Amendment protection for social media was brought to the court after Lester Packingham, a registered sex offender, was found guilty of violating North Carolina’s law. Packingham was arrested after he posted a Facebook message that had nothing to do with his sex offender status.
“The Court must exercise extreme caution before suggesting that the First Amendment provides scant protection for access to vast networks in that medium,” Kennedy explained regarding social media.
If it is true that Facebook is the modern equivalent of a printing press, the freedoms of speech protected by the Constitution certainly apply.
As technology continued to change the way that Americans communicate, it will be interesting to see how the courts keep up.!
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