Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Supreme Court ordered Friday that a state law barring registered sex offenders from using social media websites remain in effect for now.
The court granted a stay requested by Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is appealing a ruling handed down last week by the state Court of Appeals that struck down the 2008 law.
“We plan to ask the Supreme Court to review the case and uphold this tool that law enforcement and prosecutors can use to protect children,” Cooper said in a statement.
The appellate court agreed with Lester Gerard Packingham Jr., who appealed his May 2012 conviction for accessing a commercial social networking website on the grounds that the law violated his right to free speech and expression. The Durham man also was convicted in 2002 for taking indecent liberties with a child.
Judges said the law "is not narrowly tailored, is vague, and fails to target the 'evil' it is intended to rectify." They also found that the law fails to give people fair notice of what is prohibited and doesn't specify the difference between mainstream social media sites such as Facebook, where children may be members, from other sites that include a social media arm, such as Google or Amazon.
Cooper lobbied for the 2008 Protect Children from Sexual Predators Act, and he said the law needed to be written broadly to accommodate changes in technology.
“Instead of lurking around playgrounds, today’s child predators go online where they can groom multiple victims at once,” he said. “Along with tough laws, strong law enforcement, and education efforts, keeping known sex abusers off of social networking sites helps protect children.”