One of the lesser known punishments that many sex offenders face is the restriction on what websites they are permitted to view. In many states, anyone convicted of certain types of sex crimes must stop visiting social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The logic behind this is that there are so many potential victims, especially children, on these sites and it is easy too get to them in many cases.
A case that is likely to be heard and decided on by the US Supreme Court sometime this session, however, may change that. Attorneys are attempting to argue that social media sites are an essential part of everyday living today, making the point that all governors, senators, congressmen, and of course, the president all communicate to citizens via social media.
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.
Justice Elena Kagan has already commented saying, “This is the way people structure their civic community life. Everybody uses Twitter – all 50 governors, all 100 senators, every member of the House has a Twitter account. So this has become a crucially important channel of political communication.”
On the other hand, Justice Samuel Alito appears to be taking the other side of the issue. He commented, “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.”
It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules on this issue as any legal changes to social media has the potential to affect many different areas.