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Applying intermediate scrutiny, the court concluded that the law "is not narrowly tailored, is vague, and fails to target the 'evil' it is intended to rectify" because it "arbitrarily burdens all registered sex offenders by preventing a wide range of communication and expressive activity unrelated to achieving its purported goal." The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed that ruling in a 4-to-2 decision last year, finding that the law is mainly aimed at conduct, affecting speech only incidentally, and is narrowly tailored to achieve the state's goal of preventing sex offenders from "prowling on social media and gathering information about potential child targets." The court also concluded that the law leaves open "ample alternative channels for communication," since it exempts sites that bar minors, that are designed mainly to facilitate commercial transactions among users, or that provide a single discrete service such as email, photo sharing, or instant messaging.While Packingham could not legally use Facebook or Twitter, the majority noted, he was still free to swap recipes on the Paula Deen Network, post photos on Shutterfly, look for a job at Glassdoor.com, or get news updates from the website of WRAL, the NBC station in Raleigh, since all of these sites officially limit registration to users 18 or older.
Courts have upheld requirements for a probationer to share social media passwords with their supervising officer, , given the Court’s view of the central importance of social media in modern life. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down G. 14-202.5, North Carolina’s ban on sex offenders accessing commercial social networking websites. since 2013 (the first mention was here), so I’ll give only a brief summary of the facts today. The Court did not appear to find North Carolina’s statute to present a very close case. Lester Packingham is on the sex offender registry for indecent liberties with a child. Even assuming that the restriction was content neutral and that intermediate scrutiny applied, the Court struck it. Justice Alito wrote a concurrence that was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas. The concurring justices feared that the Court’s broad language (which Justice Alito described as “undisciplined dicta”) could inhibit states’ ability to craft more carefully tailored—and thus potentially constitutional—restrictions in the future. The opinion does not leave room for a narrowing construction, and there is no offender to whom the existing law may be permissibly applied. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who worked on a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U. Supreme Court to take up the case, questions the state court's understanding of "ample alternative channels," a requirement for applying intermediate rather than strict scrutiny to limits on speech: How can a total ban on some people's use of Facebook, Twitter and the like be said to leave open "ample alternative channels"?[According to the North Carolina Supreme Court,] the people restricted by the law can't read or post to Facebook, Twitter and so on. " That burst of exuberance led to Packingham's arrest and prosecution, because as a registered sex offender in North Carolina he was prohibited from using Facebook or any other "commercial social networking Web site." Last Friday the U. Supreme Court agreed to hear his First Amendment challenge to that rule.
He was required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
But the defendant also argued that he couldn't use Facebook and the other giants, and the court didn't—and couldn't—explain how the Paula Deen Network and the other sites constitute an ample alternative to those massive social networks.
In her opinion dissenting from the North Carolina Supreme Court's ruling, Justice Robin Hudson argues that the law barring registered sex offenders from social networking sites primarily targets speech, not conduct, and that it is arguably not content-neutral, meaning that strict scrutiny should apply.
After beating a traffic ticket in 2010, Lester Packingham exulted on Facebook: "Man God is Good! In 2002, when he was 21, Packingham pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor.
How about I got so much favor they dismiss the ticket before court even started. A first-time offender, he received a sentence of 10 to 12 months, after which he served two years of probation.
In any case, she says, the fit between the law's restrictions and its goal is so loose that it cannot survive even intermediate scrutiny.