Supreme Court says laws can't ban people from social media

The Supreme Court has ruled that groups of people cannot be hit with blanket social media bans, doing so in response to a North Carolina law prohibiting sex offenders from using any websites that minors may also use. The entire matter started when one North Carolina resident reportedly ran afoul of the law by posting a Facebook status. In its analysis of the issue, the Supreme Court judges found that wholesale social media bans applied to certain groups is a First Amendment violation.

The argument in favor of North Carolina's social media ban is that registered sex offenders may use such platforms to engage with or otherwise be in proximity with (digitally, that is) minors. The law had many critics, however, who argued that that such an outright ban was excessive and would hinder a person's ability to weigh in on topics and to make their views known.

The Supreme Court explained in a statement on the matter that "A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more." The Court went on to explain that this is one of the first times it has had to 'address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet.'

Ultimately, the court found that North Carolina's law went too far by broadly banning a certain group from accessing a number of websites.

By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Carolina with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge. These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.

This sets a precedent for future issues involving the Internet and free speech, and is for that reason a notable ruling beyond the scope of the original legal matter. No doubt issues related to this topic will arise in the future, and more difficult matters may be presented. It should be noted that the social media companies themselves can still choose to bar sex offenders from using their websites, something Facebook itself does.

SOURCE: US Supreme Court