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Supreme Court of the United States
February 27, 2017, Argued; June 19, 2017, Decided
[**278] Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 2008, North Carolina enacted a statute making it a felony for a registered sex offender to gain access to a number of websites, including commonplace social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. The question presented is whether that law is permissible under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, applicable to the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
North Carolina law makes it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” N. C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§14-202.5(a), (e) (2015). A “commercial social networking Web site” is defined [***6] as a website that meets four criteria. First, it “[i]s operated by a person who derives revenue from membership fees, advertising, or other sources related to the operation of the [*1734] Web site.” §14-202.5(b). Second, it “[f]acilitates the social introduction between two or more persons for the purposes of friendship, meeting other persons, or information exchanges.” Ibid. Third, it “[a]llows users to create Web pages or personal profiles that contain information such as the name or nickname of the user, photographs placed on the personal Web page by the user, other personal information about the user, and links to other personal Web pages on the commercial social networking Web site of friends or associates of the user that may be accessed by other users or visitors to the Web site.” Ibid. And fourth, it “[p]rovides users or visitors . . . mechanisms to communicate with other users, such as a message board, chat room, electronic mail, or instant messenger.” Ibid.
The statute includes two express exemptions. The statutory bar does not extend to websites that “[p]rovid[e] only one of the following discrete services: photo-sharing, electronic mail, instant messenger, or chat room or message board platform.” §14-202.5(c)(1). The law also does not encompass websites [***7] that have as their “primary purpose the facilitation of commercial transactions involving goods or services between [their] members or visitors.” §14-202.5(c)(2).
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137 S. Ct. 1730 *; 198 L. Ed. 2d 273 **; 2017 U.S. LEXIS 3871 ***; 85 U.S.L.W. 4353; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 695; 66 Comm. Reg. (P & F) 1397; 2017 WL 2621313
LESTER GERARD PACKINGHAM, Petitioner v. NORTH CAROLINA
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA
State v. Packingham, 368 N.C. 380, 777 S.E.2d 738, 2015 N.C. LEXIS 1061 (Nov. 6, 2015)
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
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Computer & Internet Law, Content Regulation, First Amendment Protections, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Scope, Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech, Governments, Legislation, Overbreadth, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sex Crimes, Sexual Assault, Abuse of Children, Business & Corporate Compliance, Computer & Internet Law, State Statutes