June 19, Supreme Court has overturned a North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites that minors can join. The challenge was brought by Lester Gerard Parkingham Jr. The case raised questions about whether such laws prohibit sex offenders from participating in web-based forums, which have become virtual town squares, as they re-enter society. Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce.
If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. Even 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 restriction was part of a legislative package that Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General at the time, advocated for many years. Cooper was elected governor last fall. In , Durham police began investigating Myspace and Facebook profiles to enforce the law.
Investigators said they found a picture of Packingham on Facebook and determined he created the profile page, according to court documents. Praise be to God. Packingham was convicted in May of violating the social media ban and received a suspended sentence and probation. The 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.
Though many of those sites now are more widely used by adults than children, the North Carolina law makes it illegal for a registered sex offender to access a website where he or she knows minors have personal web pages.
Many states have laws that require sex offenders to provide information about their internet use to authorities. 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.
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. Though the law makes exceptions for websites that provide narrow services such as email, the three-judge N. Those on the registry may not live close to schools or daycares. They are barred from working with minors and visiting certain places where children are likely to be present.