Criminals have a right to the Internet

Sep 26, 2017

Rachel Wilt, Pepperdine student

According to Statista, The Statistics Portal, it has been estimated that in 2017 there are around 2.46 billion social media users around the world. Clearly, social media plays an integral role in our everyday lives whether we are willing to admit it or not.

In 2010, Packingham was convicted in North Carolina for his use of social media after he was convicted as a sex offender in 2002. He posted what seemed like an innocent Facebook post thanking God for getting out of a traffic violation. In North Carolina, at this time it was unlawful for a registered sex offender to have accounts on social media platforms that allow minors to also register.

This case went to court with the debate at hand of whether or not limiting access to social media was a violation of someone's free speech rights. During this case, Packingham's lawyers argued that the internet and social media have become the modern-day equivalent to public parks and streets.

In my opinion, I believe that social media can be used as a very valuable resource even though users often abuse it.

Oftentimes people will post their every move, thought, and action throughout the day which is unnecessary and not a needed part of everyday life. However, more and more companies are using social media sites to post about their job opportunities, their company culture, as well as learn more about the job applicant.

Career Builder conducted a survey in 2016 and learned that 60 percent of employers use social media to learn more about their job candidates. Social media is also used as a platform for people to engage in meaningful, intellectual conversations about current issues, news, and events in our culture.

Having no access to social media isolates these individuals and makes them unable to build a potential "brand" for themselves for future job hunting, as well as doesn't give them a way to get their foot back in the door to everyday life and culture in the real world (and not jail). Thinking back to last week's assignment on Schneck vs. US and our opinions on social media monitoring, I think these regulations should still be in place and could potentially catch harm before it occurs.

Another possible implication to restricting sex offenders from social media is that they will continue to be on social media by either just lurking, searching, and reading or by creating fake accounts. This would pose more of a danger to the public.

In my opinion, more importantly than restricting people's usage of social media, users (especially minors) should be mindful of what they are posting as well as their privacy settings. It is never smart to post your actual location and things like that which poses a danger to yourself.

In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that even convicted criminals have a right to access the Internet and engage with social media platforms which in my opinion was the right decision.


Rachel Wilt,a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the prompt:In Packingham v. North Carolina, the SC ruled that even sex offenders have a 1st amendment right to social media. Where they correct? Has social media become so integral in today's society that restricting access would be the same as restricting access to necessary tools for rehabilitation (means to drive, means to find a job, means to keep a job, means to secure housing, etc.)?

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