U.S. Supreme Court strikes down sex offender social media law similar to one axed in LA

SCOTUS Sex Offenders Social Media Ruling

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A ruling by the highest court in the land on a North Carolina law that barred convicted sex offenders from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites has some guardians of civil liberties, who litigated in Louisiana, feeling even more vindicated.

"They basically agreed with us. They basically said in North Carolina and therefore nationwide that these kinds of bands on people's access to essentially almost all of the internet goes too far," said Marjorie Esman with the ACLU of Louisiana.

"It could have been argued that Louisiana was the toughest of all the state when it came to this kind of law.  I believe back around 2012 they kind of backed up a little bit, and now this ruling by the United States Supreme Court backs up what Louisiana did," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.

Esman said they challenged a Louisiana law dealing with convicted sex offenders and internet use and prevailed.

"It essentially made it impossible for someone to even do things like apply for a job online, to buy anything on Amazon because it prohibited anything that would require you to create a profile to exchange information. …So the court in Louisiana, which was the federal court in Baton Rouge, agreed with us that, that went too far and struck it down in Louisiana," said Esman.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion that, "In sum, to foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights."

Raspanti agrees.

"It absolutely a First Amendment issue in 2017 because nobody can really get along and do things they really need to do without getting on the internet," he said.

Following the ACLU's successful lawsuit, Louisiana's law currently requires sex offenders to include in their online profiles the crimes for which they were convicted.

"In some ways that makes more sense, because instead of prohibiting really important transactions that people need, it just kind of is a way to put the world on notice if people check," said Esman.

Also, sex offenders in Louisiana are required to provide all email addresses, online screen names and other online identifiers to authorities.

"Everybody has rights, but when you commit a felony, especially this kind of felony and you get convicted of that felony, you give up some of your rights," Raspanti said.

He said the high court's ruling does not give convicted sex offenders license to behave badly online.

"They're not going to be able to do whatever they want whenever they're going to get on that internet, whatever vehicle they use is by law going to have to be monitored and reported to different agencies, so these people are going to be watched," Raspanti said.

While Esman agrees government should protect children from harm, she said it has to be done without stripping offenders of their First Amendment rights.

"Doing that by denying people access to most of the internet is not effective," Esman said.

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