WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court argued Monday that social networking websites have become such an important source of information, including President Trump's daily tweets, that even sex offenders should not be barred from social media.
"That appeared to go too far for at least five of the court's eight justices, who noted that social networking sites have become a major part of "the marketplace of ideas," in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's words."Increasingly, this is the way people get ... "This is the way people structure their civic community life."Although North Carolina's law goes further than most states, a victory for Packingham would represent a ringing defense of free speech rights for some of the nation's most reviled citizens — the estimated 850,000 registered sex offenders.
Thirteen states defended the North Carolina law in legal papers as a weapon against the illicit use of social networking sites, which they said are used in one-third of Internet-related sex crimes resulting in arrest."There's a concern here for the safety of children," Ginsburg acknowledged, as some of her colleagues — notably Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer — searched for a more limited way in which states could protect victims without infringing on basic free speech rights.
But they found it difficult to defend North Carolina's law, passed in 2008 as a way to add "virtual" neighborhoods to the physical locations — such as schools and playgrounds — from which sex offenders are barred.
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