SCOTUS ruling could give NC sex offenders use of social media

"It's a crime to do anything, including what Mr. Packingham did, which was to say "God is good" because he was victorious in traffic court", said Stanford law professor David Goldberg, who will represent Packingham at the Supreme Court Monday.

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. But in 2010, he violated the state's social media prohibition by posting a jubilant Facebook message about escaping punishment in traffic court.

The state has at least one point working in its favor, he said.

The state said that if the court strikes down the law, it will work to pass another one, saying it's about protecting children online.

A North Carolina appeals court reversed his subsequent conviction, but the North Carolina Supreme Court restored the conviction and upheld the state law.

North Carolina is the only state in the USA with this law barring registered sex offenders from using social media sites.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked Goldberg whether the North Carolina social media ban is unconstitutional because it is too broad, because it isn't precisely targeted enough, or "all of those things".

Private companies like Facebook can and do ban sex offenders from their sites, hoping to keep kids safe from the darker corners of the internet.

During the February 27 oral arguments, the justices' probed the positions of Packingham's lawyers, but were hardest on the lawyer for the state.

"A person in this situation can not go onto the president's Twitter account to find out what the president is saying today?" asked Justice Elena Kagan, albeit without pronouncing Donald Trump's name. While taking actions against registered sex offenders is extremely important, is North Carolina's ruling going to benefit their cause? More than 1,000 cases have been prosecuted under the same state law violated by Packingham.

The United States Supreme Court brought this case to attention again on Monday due to their concerns around the legality of this law, especially in regards to theFirst Amendment, which constitutes the freedom of speech. All 50 governors, all 100 senators, every member of the House has a Twitter account. "And the First Amendment includes not only the right to speak, but the right to receive information". "So this has become a crucial - crucially important channel of political communication".

The North Carolina law bans access not just to what people consider to social-media sites, but also any sites that enable some form of connection between visitors, which would include YouTube, Wikipedia, and even the New York Times.

Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative who is 10 years older than Kagan, was more skeptical of people's reliance on social media, saying they can get information from other sources as they did a decade ago. "Under 35?" Kagan asked. Kagan said. "Because if I would have said, like, where the most unsafe activity takes place, it's in chat rooms and via photo sharing". It has been used to convict more than 1,000 people.

"Well, swindlers are not sex offenders", replied Montgomery.

"In essence, states have said that sex offenders can't go into the public square", Montgomery said, adding later that sex offenders shouldn't be allowed to approach minors "in the virtual world, either". A decision is expected by the end of June.