U.S. justices skeptical of sex offender social media ban

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By Lawrence Hurley

<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared poised
to strike down a North Carolina law banning convicted sex
offenders from Facebook and other social media sites because it
runs afoul of free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The eight justices heard an hour of oral arguments over
Lester Packingham’s appeal of his conviction for violating the
state law in 2010 when he posted a message on Facebook
expressing his surprise at a traffic citation being dismissed.

The North Carolina law, enacted in 2008, makes it a felony
for people on the state’s sex offender registry to access
websites that can lead to social interactions with minors.

Packingham, whose case explores free speech rights in the
digital age, is on North Carolina’s sex offender list because of
his 2002 conviction at age 21 on two counts of statutory rape of
a 13-year-old girl.

Local police saw a Facebook post he wrote, which read “Praise be to GOD. WOW! Thanks JESUS,” prompting Packingham’s
arrest.

He argued that the law restricts his free speech rights.

The state’s ban extends to sites like Facebook and Twitter
that allow people to create personal profiles. The law does not
require any proof that the user intended to use the site for an
illegal purpose.



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