Social media and First Amendment issues were debated in oral argument before the US Supreme Court in Packingham v. North Carolina.
Issue: Whether, under the court’s First Amendment precedents, a law that makes it a felony for any person on the state's registry of former sex offenders to “access” a wide array of websites – including Facebook, YouTube, and nytimes.com – that enable communication, expression, and the exchange of information among their users, if the site is “know[n]” to allow minors to have accounts, is permissible, both on its face and as applied to petitioner, who was convicted based on a Facebook post in which he celebrated dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring “God is Good!”
In oral argument on 27 February 2017, Justice Kennedy drew an analogy between social media and the public square. Justice Ginsburg said restricting access to social media would mean being cut off from a very large part of the marketplace of ideas. The First Amendment includes not only the right to speak, but the right to receive information.
A blog relating to Internet legal issues by Professor John Swinson, University of Queensland
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