Packingham Facebook case set for conference May 12

By Robin Vanderwall . . .

The United States Supreme Court has set Packingham v. North Carolina for conference on May 12, at which time the Court will decide whether or not to grant a Writ for Certiorari. The petitioner’s request can be viewed here. The state of North Carolina waived response on April 6, 2016. Should the Court elect to grant cert, the state would likely be called to file a response at that time.

The Packingham case concerns a statutory prohibition against registrants in North Carolina from accessing social networking websites that permit users who are under the age of 18. The state’s high court ruled 4-to-2 in November, 2015, that the statutory requirement sanctions conduct rather than speech thus sidestepping the more intense legal scrutiny whenever there is a prior restraint imposed on free speech. To read David Post’s excellent analysis of the state’s supreme court ruling, please revisit his previous post about the case.

someone outside of NARSOL

Written by 

Occasionally we will share articles that have been published elsewhere. This is a common practice as long as only a portion of the piece is shared; a full piece is very occasionally shared with permission. In either case, the author's name and the place of original publication are displayed prominently and with links.

16 Thoughts to “Packingham Facebook case set for conference May 12”

  1. AvatarPaul

    I believe Fred in the past (correct me if I am wrong, Fred) has made the point about this. Prohibiting our using social media makes it damn near impossible to organize since (no offense to RSOL) organizational efforts are limited to a few websites where registrants my visit. I do believe this is a deliberate attempt to suppress organizational efforts on our part. When the internet can only be used for information-gatheriing purposes and not for social networking, all of the information in the world won’t do a damn thing unless it can be shared with one another. If I stumble upon a great article by Catherine Carpenter, Troy Stabenow or whoever, what good does it personally do me if I can’t share it with others who can than share it with others?

    What concerns me is that there is talk to extend certain Tiers to longer registrations thus most likely further prohibiting a registrant’s ability to use social networks. This is not coincidental. As more people start becoming eligible because their time is running out, lawmakers panic. So what do they do? Try to extend the time with filthy rhetoric that panics the masses. Unfortunately those registrants suffer and become more and more isolated and less involved in the process of social activism, which we all need to be involved in.

    Question: When someone is removed from their registry in a certain state, are they then able to use facebook? Presumably one can be removed in a certain state but then if they move to another state, they would have to register. Just wondering how that would apply to the use of social networks.

    1. FredFred

      Yes I did make that point and thank you for remembering. We are being stifled from speaking out online and organizing. Facebook groups actually get very large and you can reach 1000s of people through them who believe in what you are saying. However, even if states do not out right deny us the right to use facebook, facebook will ban us as soon as they find out we are RSOs. We are not able to just create fact user names like most people do every day, because we have to register our user names and facebook will learn of them. So what we need to accomplish here in order to use facebook as a means of organizing is either every state has to stop requiring us to register online identifiers, which will allow us to legal create fake names or some how get facebook to stop discriminating against us. Personally I think the first option is the one worth pursuing. However I fail to see how this case is going to make a difference. All this case is going to do is say that RSOs is this state can use Facebook if they want to, but it is not going to stop Facebook from kicking them off and it is not going to give them a means to using fake names. So RSOs in this state will still not be able to use Facebook.

    2. AvatarRichard

      Our voices are certainly stifled…and for good reason. Once truthful facts start surfacing on the internet and RSO’s, and their loved ones, start to come together to support one each other, there may be a chance for change. Unfortunately I am beginning to see more and more people who have been supporters of HB2 using false facts about RSO’s and how we are the true reason that HB2 was passed (or at least RSO’s are the menaces in the restroom). I think it would help if we could get some writers to draft up some op-ed’s with truthful facts about RSO’s and bring some light to the situation.

  2. AvatarPaul

    Speaking of sharing, I think RSOL should invite this individual to speak at this year’s conference on Civil Commitment. His name is John Douard. He is not only a philosophy professor at Rutgers but he is a dedicated New Jersey Lawyer who specializes in cases involving civil commitment of registered citizens. I posted an article of his below which I hope others find as enjoyable as I did.

    Sandy, or committee who is putting on this year’s conference, hope you’re listening.


  3. AvatarEmil S

    Facebook is just the tip of the iceburg, in North Carolina they bar registrants from accessing any social media website.

    1. Avatarrwvnral

      The N.C. law under scrutiny is G.S. 14-202.5 and it does NOT restrict registrants from accessing “any” social media website. It restricts access to social media sites that allow minors to utilize the website. In addition to that, the NC law specifically excludes social media websites that are intended for commercial purposes (such as LinkedIn, Amazon, or Biznik).

  4. FredFred

    This won’t make a lick of difference win or lose as facebook will ban any RSOs regardless of whether or not the law allows them to use the platform. This is waste of resources. Can we concentrate on addressing the root of the problem?

    1. Avatarrwvnral

      If the Supreme Court were to strike the prohibition in North Carolina, Facebook’s corporate policy of restricting access would immediately come under scrutiny. However, even if FB continues to restrict registrants from establishing accounts, it has no power to restrict registrants from “accessing” the Facebook website to view other Facebook pages (which is what the statutory language in North Carolina presently does). Pyrrhic as that victory might be, it would surely be a step in the right direction. Regarding your suggestion that it’s a waste of resources, I believe that concern is at the discretion of the petitioner in this particular case. Certainly no RSOL money has been expended on this effort.

    2. FredFred

      I do see your point on facebook coming under scrutiny if they continue to discriminate against RSOs after the Supreme Court rules in our favor. However they will likely stick with their policies as they believe they are representing the majority with that position. You are correct that anybody can view a Facebook business page without creating an account. Even now we can do that. There is nothing that restricts that. A Facebook business page is the same as a website. So again no difference is made. If people did not know that please visit RSOLs Facebook page with out an FB account right now. You will see that you can.

      You can not view personal Facebook pages at all unless you have an account which will will hamper our abilities to connect and communicate with like minded people. For me that is where the problem lies and I do not see how that will change even if the ruling goes in our favor.

      Now I spoke a little harshly in the first comment and I apologize. I wish there was an edit button. I am just frustrated with everything, but don’t get me wrong. i do appreciate any efforts put forward to combat any areas of this law.

    3. Avatarrwvnral

      Frustration certainly abounds, Fred. One of the features we are hoping to include in a revision of the website would allow commenters to edit their submissions for a period of time prior to submission. Here’s hoping, anyway.

      The language of the N.C. statute under review prohibits “access”. In fact, that’s the reason for the petition for Writ. NC’s Supreme Court hung its proverbial hat on the use of that word. I would not encourage ANY North Carolinian registrant to look at anyone’s page on Facebook, not even RSOL’s. That would be “accessing” the site. That is illegal. And that is why the law is being challenged.

    4. FredFred

      I should also make it clear that when i said “waste of resources” I was not referring to RSOL nor did I have the impression that RSOL was involved with this.

  5. FredFred

    Another important factor that I believe needs to be noted here is that many states do not have laws that prohibit RSOs from using Social Media. Mine doesn’t. I am free to create a Facebook account if I want too as long as I register it with the State Police within 3 business days, but I know that soon after I do that Facebook will ban me, so why bother? My concern here is that the Supreme Court will rule against us and then it will automatically become law that we can not us social media at all. So I will no longer be able to use my google plus account either. I know some RSOs have twitter accounts. They will likely have to delete those accounts immediately.

    It would be great if the Supreme Court rules in our favor, but if they don’t things are gong to get a lot worse.

  6. People I hate to be rude but the internet was what got some in trouble in the first place. While it might be something for those who need to feel the use of face book I am not really comfortable with it at all. You have a lot of negatives on their but if that’s your thing of social I would much rather do it in person.
    Now police have a right to protect and serve but at the same time they abuse that right as in the cases of the sex registry. They will abuse the sex offender in any way because they see the sex offender as a threat when he asked for sex and went down to meet that person.
    Just so happens I have my right to use my computer. If I am irresponsible for my actions that were prompted by me than that’s my fault but in the case of the teenager prompting one to give in we should all question.
    Weather people use face book in the right way or the wrong way is up to them and up to face book.

    1. AvatarPaul


      The problem is that doing it in person is uncomfortable for a lot of people due to lack of anonymity. I wish that weren’t the case. Frankly it is this deep seated shame which many of us have that is such a problem for us when it comes to mobilizing the base. But in person meetings are difficult to organize at a grassroots level because a number of us are on probation and it would be a violation of one of the conditions to associate with other (felons) outside of a “therapeutic” setting.

    2. AvatarMaestro

      James Townsend,
      I met the girl I am in trouble for thru a social media site but it was not Facebook (in fact, FB wasn’t even thought of yet). So to refute and invalidate your claim of the internet social media being a bad place for us to continue going, I personally, would have hooked up with this same young female had I seen her walking down the street or in a retail store. She probably made MANY heads turn.
      And that’s not “victim blaming”, that’s realistic fact, But people don’t take well to reality. If it had happened that way, should I then never walk to the corner store for groceries ever again?

      Being that she had only a few months to go til her legal birthday, she sure would have looked the very same as she did when I met her only she would no longer be a “victim” and my head still would have turned.
      This was 11 years ago. So even I was 11 years younger and also didn’t appear my age. To this day I get compliments about my physical appearance for my age as we all know age and appearance don’t always match the INDIVIDUAL.

      I enjoy visiting this site and reading the articles and comments sections. But I am starting to see a trend in us as RSO’s complaining about how the world outside is treating us but yet we’re kinda doing the very same things to ourselves. I see a lot of self condemnation in these comments and it angers me.

  7. AvatarBrian

    Law professor Eugene Volokh has a spectacular column on the Washington Post about this, and he co-authored an amicus brief urging SCOTUS to take up this case. The column is here, with a link to the amicus brief in the text:

    He really takes the NC Supremes to task for their “analysis” of the law:
    “The people restricted by the law can’t read or post to Facebook, Twitter and so on. But no problem — the sex offender still has ample alternative channels, such as the Paula Deen Network,, and Shutterfly.”

Comments are closed.