Should sex offenders have a right to social media?

Oct 02, 2017

Kristin Vartan, Pepperdine student

One of the purposes of a social network is to quite literally network through virtual means. A LinkedIn account is like a remote business exchange of business cards but is a connection documented with more permanence. Modern society is so rooted in social media networking that companies will even scour potential employer's social media accounts to get a better idea of their character and fit with the company. Some job applications even provide the option of replacing standard application inserts by linking your LinkedIn account to the application.

Every citizen should have an equal opportunity to this professional tool, including sexual offenders, according to Packingham v. North Carolina. The rationale to this is that limiting access to professional networks to a former criminal is conflicting with their first amendment rights and their opportunity to bounce back from their criminal status. From a redemptive perspective, I can understand the cognition behind this consensus.

On the contrary, I believe that once a second sex offender takes away someone's right to their own body and privacy through asexual offense, then they automatically forfeit their right to free speech and access.

A person cannot overstep their bounds of access to something as far-reaching as the internet when they have severely breached the access of another person. That offender cannot fully be trusted to not repeat those actions through remote means. In fact, one of the points made during Packingham v. North Carolina was that the limitless access to social media gives could provide a sex offender endless search opportunities to find out everything they can about the person they want to sexually assault. Who's to stop that offender from going after more victims, especially when they have an extensive network of civilians for the picking? One of the most dangerous attributes of social media is that its users post their comings and goings in real time. A sixteen-year-old girl could be posting a picture on her Instagram story at SunLife and then another one at school with her friends. Especially with the "geotag" feature, the public can source exact addresses of social media user's location. Sex offenders can catch their victim at the location, or learn their routine behaviors. Even if said sixteen-year-old girl posts the Instagram story when she is no longer there, she may post about the location the same time next week. Now the sex offender knows that this girl, for an example goes to SunLife Tuesdays after school. He can catch her in the act a week later if he missed his chance the previous Tuesday. A social networking tool has now become a social stalking tool. Therefore, I do not agree with the Packingham v. North Carolina ruling.


Kristin Vartan,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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