RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP):
The North Carolina law banning registered sex offenders from commercial social networking sites like Facebook that children can use is unconstitutional because it's vague and violates free speech, the state Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
A three-judge panel ruled unanimously in vacating the additional felony conviction of a registered offender in Durham County for accessing a site after authorities say he had created a profile page on Facebook. His attorney argued the 2008 law wasn't narrowly written to serve a legitimate government interest and could prohibit routine Internet activity, such as a performing a Google search.
"When the General Assembly passed the law, it was entirely feel-good and designed to make people feel secure,' said Glenn Gerding, a Chapel Hill lawyer representing Lester Gerard Packingham in court. But legislators, Gerding added, "didn't even consider how this might be implemented".
The 'Protect Children From Sexual Predators Act' made it unlawful, among other things, for a registered sex offender to access a website where the person knows minors are permitted to become members or have personal Web pages. The measure is part of a host of restrictions to protect minors from sexual predators, but the judges say this one is too broad.