The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that a North Carolina law which prohibits all registrants from accessing commercial social networking websites used by minor children violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“This is a tremendous victory for the registrants of North Carolina as well as registrants throughout the nation,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized for the first time that registrants have First Amendment rights including the use of social media websites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”
In its decision, the Court noted that the broad wording of the North Carolina law bars access “not only to commonplace social media websites but also to websites as varied as Amazon.com, Washingtonpost.com, and Webmd.com.” The Court also noted that “(e)ven convicted criminals – and in some instances especially convicted criminals – might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”
The Court stated clearly their belief that the sexual abuse of a child is “a most serious crime and an act repugnant to the moral instincts of a decent people.” The Court also stated clearly that states may pass valid laws in order to protect children and other victims of sexual assault from abuse. The court then ruled that the North Carolina law did not legitimately serve the purpose of protecting children and others from abuse.
Also in its decision, the Court noted the “troubling fact” that the North Carolina law imposed severe restrictions on persons “who have already served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system.” The Court also noted that “(i)t is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used by persons who have completed their sentences.”
“We are encouraged by today’s wise decision of the U.S. Supreme Court,” stated ACSOL President Chance Oberstein. “We are hopeful that this wisdom can be extended to other decisions in the near future.”
Although today’s decision was unanimous, three of the Court’s nine justices – Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas — entered a concurring decision which agreed that the North Carolina law violated the First Amendment, but focused upon the “grave risk” that repeat sex offenders pose to children. In their concurrence, the justices repeated the myth that registrants have a high risk of re-offense. Specifically, the justices stated that “(w)hen sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.”
“It is disappointing that three members of the U.S. Supreme Court continue to repeat a myth which has been disproved by decades of research,” stated Bellucci. “That research, including the findings of Dr. Karl Hanson, has overwhelmingly concluded that registrants have a very low rate of re-offense.”
US Supreme Court strikes down NC sex offender social media ban
The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites that minors can join. Full Article