Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban - | WBTV Charlotte

Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media ban

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The Supreme Court has struck down a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media sites.

The justices ruled unanimously Monday in favor of North Carolina resident Lester Packingham Jr. His Facebook boasts about beating a traffic ticket led to his conviction for violating a 2008 law aimed at keeping sex offenders off internet sites children might use.

The court rejected the state's argument that the law deals with the virtual world in the same way that states keep sex offenders out of playgrounds and other places children visit.

“Initial thoughts, I go straight to mama bear. If you abused a child or are a danger to a child in anyway whatsoever, your rights need to be limited,” said Charlotte mother and teacher Amanda Long. “But, there's always the argument of First Amendment and Freedom of Speech."

Several parents at Freedom Park had the same reaction. They understand the legal argument about a vast and growing Internet but also liked the extra layer of law.

“I think it's better they not be on there, just to lower the risk,” said Tiffany Sterling.

In striking down the ban, Justices said social media is a critical part of the modern age and an indispensable method of sharing information.

“I don't think it really changes our strategies,” said Janet Harmon, Director of Education and Outreach at Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center. 
The Center helps abused children and their families.

“We have had situations where that initial interaction took place on social media. I don't know that those were necessarily registered sex offenders,” said Harmon. “Most of the people who offend children do not have a record.”

Harmon said most children are victimized by someone they already know and trust; not a stranger online.

Social media ban or not, it boils down to what parents and guardians teach their children.

Harmon recommends the NetSmartz website for parents who want to learn more about online dangers.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. 

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