Supreme Court hears sex offender social media case

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments this week about whether a state forbidding a convicted sex offender from accessing social media sites and other sites that minors can access is protected by the First Amendment.

The case, Packingham v. North Carolina, was argued in front of the eight justices on the court on Monday.

The Packingham case focuses on a convicted sex offender, Lester Packingham, who was convicted of a felony in 2010 for violating a North Carolina law that doesn't allow sex offenders to access social media sites. Packingham was convicted of a felony based on a Facebook post where he said, "God is Good!" after a traffic ticket against him was dismissed.

Arguments in front of the court focused on whether or not banning sex offenders from social media sites violated First Amendment protections. Justices like Samuel Alito stated that people survived before social media and could exist without it.

The argument behind the social media case the supreme court is listening to is convicted sex offenders shouldn't be allowed on social media sites because they can stalk kids and possibly find new victims -- that it's not a matter of free speech and it wouldn't restrict sex offenders first amendment rights.

"I know there are people who think that life is not possible without Twitter and Facebook and these things and that 2003 was the dark ages," Alito said. "But I don't know that -- that any channels of communication that were available at that time have been taken away. So if there were alternative channels then, why would there not be alternative channels now?"

Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justices seemed to be on the other side of the issue based on their comments. Kagan, in particular, brought up how crucial social media sites are in the digital world, for religious, social, and even political discussion.

"Everybody uses Twitter," Kagan said. "All 50 governors, all 100 senators, every member of the House has a Twitter account. So this has become a crucial, crucially important channel of political communication. And a person couldn't go onto those sites and find out what these members of our government are thinking or saying or doing -- is that right?"

Analysis from the SCOTUS blog, a public service website dedicated to covering the U.S. Supreme Court, stated that it seemed as if five of the justices may not think that the law is constitutional, and if Justice Anthony Kennedy rules against the state that, "if Kennedy is indeed on board, then Packingham seems to have five votes in favor of striking down the North Carolina law."

If the eight member Supreme Court ties, the decision reverts back to the decision of the North Carolina supreme court which would uphold the law and not allow sex offenders on social media.

A decision is expected this summer.

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