back to article US Supreme Court set to kill Twitter, Facebook ban for sex offenders

The US Supreme Court looks set to kill off a North Carolina law that prevents sex offenders from accessing social media sites, for being unconstitutional. During oral arguments [PDF] on Monday morning, a majority of the Justices appeared to agree that the law infringes on people's First Amendment rights in a way that is not …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Childcatcher

    So Facebook allows users to id suspected sex offenders to moderators?

    That seems pretty star chamber to me.

    As for this case, banning someone from social media can have very serious professional consequences, especially if that person is self employed. So it could impact someone's property right, as well as their ability to follow news and opinions.

    1. MNGrrrl

      Re: So Facebook allows users to id suspected sex offenders to moderators?

      > So it could impact someone's property right, as well as their ability to follow news and opinions.

      I'll give you the first one, but if you only get your news and opinions from Facebook... or even give either of those any weight at all on it, well... enjoy being part of someone else's product lineup.

    2. WCSpeaks

      Re: So Facebook allows users to id suspected sex offenders to moderators?

      I only hope that when the S.C.O.T.U.S. hands down its ruling on this most important free speech issue it will be sure to rule the ban unconstitutional for those offenders who are on parole supervision or more seriously on lifetime supervision. The victory would be important for curbing the government's right to strip segments of society of basic constitutional rights, but it would be hollow if the ruling exempts those offenders on parole or lifetime state supervision. I hope this will be overturned for ALL offenders regardless of their parole or lifetime supervision status.

      As this article states, Facebook has their own ban in place for registrants. How will this affect them? I mean a private business has the right to deny service to whomever. Will this force them to drop that policy against registered citizens? If the ban on social media gets shot down cold, then a registrant is going to have to sue Facebook for discrimination against sex offenders and that will be a hard one to win because as I understand discrimination law you have to be discriminated against because of race, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, or religious beliefs. Being a convicted felon does not fall under any of these protected classes.

  2. MNGrrrl

    For, or Against... You're both wrong.

    Consider this: One of the three branches of our government is run almost exclusively by people who are past retirement age. In some cases, well past their expected use-by date. It's a scientific and medical fact that when you get into that age bracket, your judgement skills are impaired. Stop and think about that for a moment: Their main job is to judge -- and there is a ton of scientific and medical literature saying they are substantially impaired. I'm not saying every old person is walking around with underwear on their head and yelling at the kids to get off their lawn... what I am saying is: Isn't it a little suspicious there's no medical exam required for the position? I mean, you can't even *drive* without passing an eye exam. Pilots have to go through extensive medical checkups. Even forklift operators are given some scrutiny. But the Supreme Court justices of the United States? Nah. Doesn't seem *important* enough. Whether you agree or disagree with their conclusions... stop and give a thought to just how screwed we are that there is no way -- thanks to our abundantly foresighted forefathers (hahaha) -- to remove them from office. They could literally go completely crazy and start barking at the moon... but until they excused themselves from the bench, we'd be stuck with them.

    Does that, maybe, put some context behind the decisions that these people are making? Now expand on that: Look up the average age for people serving a term in Congress. And there you have it. Everything you need to know about why our country makes such incredibly boneheaded decisions. No politics. Just basic human biology. Those over the age of 45 may thumb me down... everyone else, yeah. You already know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For, or Against... You're both wrong.

      I'm a bit young to be pointing this out, but all three of our branches of government have been filled by the geriatric class for a while now. The terms of appointment for SC justices are spelled out in the US Constitution; as long as they're displaying "good behavior" they can stay. This basically means that they get lifetime appointments, though you could try to argue that if one is going senile, then they're no longer displaying good behavior. When the Constitution was written, people rarely lived long enough to get to that state. Similarly, when driver's licences were first issued, not all of them were issued with expiration/renewal dates. That meant that some people were able to keep them well past the time they should have stopped driving.

      Justices can still be removed by impeachment, and there has been some pressure for them to convince each other to step down when it's time. But if you want them to go sooner, you're going to need a constitutional amendment.

      While I don't always agree with their conclusions, I usually find that the current bunch does a good job of exposing the major issues at play and making it clear just how twisted some of the laws actually are. Most of that discussion should have taken place in the state's congress before those laws were ever passed, but most of them have turned into rubber stamps. The SCotUS has been the most reasonable part of our government for the last 16 years and I don't see that changing anytime soon. If I was actually going to make a change, I'd suggest making the hearings in two parts. Then everyone would have a chance to take a break and go find out what Snapchat is in the middle, before returning to make a more informed analysis.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "When the Constitution was written, people rarely lived long enough..."

        Common fallacy. Life expectancy was much shorter then, true, but that is almost entirely due to infant mortality and childhood disease. If you made it to your teenage years, the life expectancy of someone of reasonable wealth (so they weren't breaking their back working 14 hour days on a farm or in a mine) was very similar to what it is today.

        1. Steve the Cynic

          Re: "When the Constitution was written, people rarely lived long enough..."

          "Life expectancy was much shorter then, true, but that is almost entirely due to infant mortality and childhood disease."

          This follows from the conventional definition of life expectancy: the median age of death.

          If the life expectancy of people born today in Country X is, say, 75, then 50% of people born there today will die before their 75th birthday, and 50% after. High infant mortality moves that down, because it moves the 50% point, and that point can move quite a long way for even a small change in infant mortality.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: For, or Against... You're both wrong.

      The US Constitution sets minimum requirements for being President, a Senator, and Congresscritter. The requirements include minimum age to hold the office, minimum residency time in the US, and in the case of President must be native born. Given most politicians in the US work they way up the party ranks locally (state and/or city) to become prominent enough to run for Congress or President in not to surprising that the average age of Congress critters is not exactly young.

      The Nine Seniles tend to be elderly because they have a lifetime appointment as do all feral judges.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: For, or Against... You're both wrong.

        I don't know if you meant to get me worried by talking about feral judges, but you have.

    3. Eddy Ito

      Re: For, or Against... You're both wrong.

      As pointed out, removing a justice is the same as removing anyone else. Article 2 Section 4 of the constitution reads "The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." and as judges are civil officers they can be removed. Further the "good behavior" in Article 3 implies that impeachment is possible for other, presumably lesser, reasons than "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

      As for the ages of the judges, only half are beyond 67 which is what Social Security considers full retirement age. A number which I feel only proper to point out that there is an excellent chance that it will be higher for our younger commentards. I also don't see anything backing up your assertion that "it's a scientific and medical fact" that age necessarily means declining mental faculties. I would say there is quite a lot of evidence that would support that it is the young whippersnappers who, without any experience, lack any sensible judgement at all and some of said cohort even revel in that fact and promptly post the resulting video to youtube or send the nude selfie to their [b,g]f.

      Now consider that Senators must be at least 30 and Representatives at least 25 and you might realize why it seems that they are so old to you. The average age for Reps in the 114th Congress was 57 and the Senate was 61 which is lower than the 63.1 years for the 111th congress a few short years ago. That's not terribly old when you consider that congresscritters typically don't run or get elected until they are near 50. How many 32 year olds are even running for a political office at the national level? Probably not many have the resources or recognition to start a campaign and those youtube vids likely aren't helping.

      Oh, those boneheaded laws the congress comes up with, they were bought and paid for by the people who put those critters in office.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For, or Against... You're both wrong.

      Keep in mind: The average age of the US Supreme Court is lower than the average age of the Rolling Stones.

      Not that I'd suggest the 'Stones should interpret law or anything.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Major Statutory Issue

    Social media sites have varying mixes of ages by their nature. This mix does shift with time and popularity also changes with time (MySpace anyone?). So either this type of law will be either be overly broad or excessively narrow. The first problem will result in challenges like this and probably declaration the law is unconstitutionally broad in scope. If the second problem, it will not have much effect even if its constitutionality is dubious.

    The Nine Seniles have been fairly consistent about laws that might impact fundamental rights have to meet a very high standard of the narrowest possible scope and effect combined with a very compelling reason why the law should be allowed to stand. Often laws like this are struck down because the Seniles' opinion they fail one of the tests rather badly. Without knowing the precise wording the NC law my suspicion is the law as written will fail one or more of the requirements. Based mostly on the observation many of these laws are poorly thought and written and are often overreactions to the problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Major Statutory Issue

      We have a local restriction on using Facebook while driving that has been used in several cases - which were then dismissed when it was discovered that the accused was using Snapchat.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Let's extend the stupidity

    Let's ban anyone who's been convicted of robbing a bank from using money - dumb I know, but no different really.

    The American "justice" system is all about punishment - they have no interest in education or rehabilitation.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Rehabilitation, um

      A reflex cliche response is that rehabilitation doesn't work so well with serious sex offenders and specifically with child abusers - they want what they want.

      But I agree, viewing from outside, that the U.S. criminal law system performs poorly on education, and rehabilitation, and for that matter, justice. A side-effect of the plea-bargain system is to bully people into confessing crimes they didn't commit. And then there's the racial oppression angle.

      1. wayward4now

        Re: Rehabilitation, um

        "rehabilitation doesn't work so well with serious sex offenders and specifically with child abusers - they want what they want."

        And that is dead wrong. With a comprehensive course of rehab, sex offenders have a less than 3% recidivism rate. And, when you take the Dept. Of Justice's own figures, almost 90% of new rape cases are committed by people NOT on the registry. They are committed by family, friends of family, other friends or authority figures.

    2. WCSpeaks

      Re: Let's extend the stupidity

      I can't recall the case name, but I remember a judge that likened banning convicted sex offenders from using the Internet totally, even if their crime involved the use of the Internet, was like telling someone who committed mail fraud that they could never receive or send mail ever again or like telling someone who committed fraud via telephone that they could never own, possess or use a telephone ever again.

      If this ruling gets overturned, it will, as I understand it, attach a very strong First Amendment free speech liberty interest to Internet access as a whole since most everything is moving to an on-line format. Largely gone are the days where one can just walk into a factory and fill out an application for a job. Most businesses want you to apply on-line. So saying registered citizens can't use the Internet or social media is pretty much ensuring they'll never be able to rebuild a normal life.

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