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Though the law makes exceptions for websites that provide narrow services such as email, the three-judge N. appeals court panel that ruled in the case said it could prohibit a registered sex offender from accessing Google, Amazon or even a cooking TV channel website because the sites provide secondary social networking forums.
“In sum, to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” Kennedy’s ruling states. Packingham was convicted in May 2012 of violating the 2008 social media ban and received a suspended sentence and probation.His post was about a court’s resolution of a traffic ticket he had received. “This language is bound to be interpreted by some to mean that the states are largely powerless to restrict even the most dangerous sexual predators from visiting any internet sires, including for example internet dating sites,” Alito wrote for the three justices.Many states have laws that require sex offenders to provide information about their internet use to authorities.Ann Arbor, MI - Lab ID 223912Atlanta, GA - Lab ID 100662Beltsville, MD - Lab ID 102891Boston, MA - Lab ID 180179Carle Place, NY - Lab ID 102344Charlotte, NC - Lab ID 192283Chicago, IL - Lab ID 102992Corporate - Cinnaminson, NJ - Lab ID 100194Dallas, TX - Lab ID 223278Denver, CO - Lab ID 189946Fort Lauderdale - Lab ID 102794Houston, TX - Lab ID 102575Huntington Beach, CA - Lab ID 101650Indianapolis, IN - Lab ID 157245Miami, FL - Lab ID 102813Minneapolis, MN - Lab ID 163162New York, NY - Lab ID 102581Orlando, FL - Lab ID 163563Pasadena, CA - Lab ID 102814Phoenix, AZ - Lab ID 189631Piscataway, NJ - Lab ID 167035Raleigh, NC - Lab ID 173741San Leandro, CA - Lab ID 101748Seattle, WA - Lab ID 167337Wallingford, CT - Lab ID 165118 Beltsville, MD - Lab ID 102891Boston, MA - Lab ID 180179Carle Place, NY - Lab ID 102344Charlotte, NC - Lab ID 192283Chicago, IL - Lab ID 102992Corporate - Cinnaminson, NJ - Lab ID 100194Huntington Beach, CA - Lab ID 101650Indianapolis, IN - Lab ID 157245Las Vegas, NV - Lab ID 226789New York, NY - Lab ID 102581Pasadena, CA - Lab ID 102814San Leandro, CA - Lab ID 101748St.Louis, MO - Lab ID 102636 Carle Place, NY - Lab ID 102344Charlotte, NC - Lab ID 192283Chicago, IL - Lab ID 102992Corporate - Cinnaminson, NJ - Lab ID 100194Huntington Beach, CA - Lab ID 101650Indianapolis, IN - Lab ID 157245Kernersville, NC - Lab ID 102564Minneapolis, MN - Lab ID 163162New York, NY - Lab ID 102581Orlando, FL - Lab ID 163563Pasadena, CA - Lab ID 102814Seattle, WA - Lab ID 167337St.In 2010, Durham police began investigating Myspace and Facebook profiles to enforce the law. “Even with these assumptions about the scope of the law and the State’s interest, the statute here enacts a prohibition unprecedented in the scope of First Amendment speech it burdens,” Kennedy’s ruling states.
Investigators said they found a picture of Packingham on Facebook and determined he created the profile page, according to court documents. “Social media allows users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind.” Though the ruling was unanimous, with new Justice Neil Gorsuch not participating, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas cautioned that Kennedy's "loose rhetoric" could prevent states from taking any measures to restrict convicted sex offenders on the internet.
Glenn Gerding, the Chapel Hill attorney who represented Packingham, argued several years ago that the law as written could make it difficult for a registered offender to engage in routine Internet activity, such as a Google search.
The law defines a “commercial social networking website” as one that derives revenue from membership fees or advertising, facilitates social introductions and allows users to create pages to post information.
States also limit internet use as a condition of parole or probation.
Louisiana has a law similar to North Carolina's, but unlike the N. law just struck down, Louisiana’s applies only to people convicted of sex crimes with children, according to a document filed in Supreme Court.
“It is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used even by persons who have completed their sentences. Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying in a 4-2 decision that the “incidental burden imposed” upon convicted sex offenders “is not greater than necessary to further the governmental interest of protecting children from registered sex offenders.” In North Carolina, where 14,268 people are entered in the N. Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry database, civil liberty organizations have paid close attention to Packingham’s case. The 2008 legislative package came about at a time that state attorneys general across the nation were raising concerns about social media sites such as Facebook and Myspace, hoping to protect users from sexual predators using the networks.