The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a North Carolina law that bars convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites, but that doesn’t mean the law can’ be redrafted.
Although well-intentioned to protect kids from sex offenders online, the justices said North Carolina’s statute was too broad and a violation of First Amendment guarantees of free speech.
Western Carolina University constitutional expert Dr. Todd Collins said the ruling applies to any states with similar laws.
“The broadness of the law, and the way the North Carolina statute was written, was so far that it was pretty easy, I think, for the Supreme Court to come to that conclusion,” Dr. Todd Collins, with the Political Science and Public Affairs Department, said.
Collins said legislatures can go back and draft new laws to protect children online, for example, restricting registered sex offenders from school websites or chat rooms kids might use.
“They did leave open the opportunity, the chance, that other laws that were more targeted to the problem could be allowed and could be a limit on free speech. It was just this one was so broad that it went too far,” Collins said.
Collins said the Supreme Court ruling showed the justices realize the importance of social media to free speech.
The ACLU of North Carolina agrees with the ruling.
“This case is a good reminder that even people who are unpopular, people who have been convicted of crimes, still have Constitutional rights,” the ACLU’s Mike Meno said.