LESTER PACKINGHAM JR. registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was 21. But that offense isn’t what brought Packingham to the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday.
The crime this time around? A Facebook post.
The post itself was benign enough. In 2010, Packingham took to Facebook to celebrate a recently dismissed parking ticket. “Praise be to GOD, WOW!” he wrote. But in posting that message—indeed, in using Facebook at all—Packingham was breaking a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing websites that enable people to exchange information where minors can participate.
The law was severe but certainly seemed more reasonable back in 2008. Never would've guessed a sex offender would be the one to make the push for social networks to be viewed as a personal right.
Strange to think of the ramifications if the court does not rule in Packingham's favor. More and more people and companies are making data only available via social networks. This ties back into what I was talking about with Evan Reyes in our pod that the service of Twitter is more valuable than the company itself. Maybe it's worth considering creating a more feasible way to have accounts which only allow you to read publicly available content and do not allow you to share out or connect with individual users.