The Supreme Court declared on Monday, June 19, that freedom of speech also meant the freedom to tweet. In an unprecedented ruling, the courts determined that there was no crime great enough that any person should have their use of the internet or social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest restricted.
The Supreme Court ruled that the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter is a First Amendment right. The precedent set could have many different interpretations in the future and could become as historic and controversial as Roe V. Wade or the Scopes Trial.
The Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law, General Statute 14-202;5 (a) and (e) that prohibited registered sex offenders from using social media. The law is quoted on Quartz.
“[It was a felony] to access commercial social networking, website where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create and maintain personal web pages.”
In North Carolina, more than 1,000 sex offenders have been prosecuted under the law. Now according to the Supreme Court, everyone has a right to use the internet for social media regardless of past crimes.
The Supreme Court is in no way endorsing rape and pedophilia, but rather say that social media is so intrinsic to modern life that it is now the modern equivalent of access to “speaking and listening in the modern public square.” Justice Kennedy is quoted in Quartz.
“Foreclosing access to social media altogether thus prevents users from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”
As with any other Supreme Court ruling, this new decision will be interpreted by all courts for its relevance in future cases. How will courts interpret this new concept that having a Facebook account is a constitutional right? How will the freedom of tweets impact social media moderation or censorship?
Does this mean that the Supreme Court is ordering the government to provide free home internet? Probably not, but the internet can be accessed for free in libraries as well as many privately owned businesses, such as restaurants.
What if, though, in light of the Supreme Court ruling that Facebook and Twitter access are constitutional rights, someone did not have internet access but was housebound, due to poor health, or even house arrest. Do these people get free internet?
What does the Supreme Court ruling infer about the hospitalized, imprisoned, and other institutionalized citizens? Will prisons and hospitals have to ensure wifi connectivity to comply with the Supreme Court ruling?
How will this Supreme Court interpretation of free speech effect the routine Facebook and Twitter account suspensions and deletions, or the deletion of YouTube videos? Is it still permissible for Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to censor users and their posts?
Can Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and so forth still delete or suspend accounts? Wouldn’t that be a violation of free speech in light of today’s Supreme Court ruling?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are international forums. They must deal with the laws of many different nations. Will yesterday’s Supreme Court decision give Americans an advantage over people from other nations?
Perhaps one day soon the Supreme Court will hear the case of Pinterest V. Scaparo. Ricky Scaparo of End Time Headlines contributed an article to Charisma News, a Christian publication. Scaparo alleges that Pinterest called 15 of his Christian pins, one about the weather, “sexually explicit” or “pornographic,” and determined, apparently without even looking at these pins, that they were a violation of the terms of service. The account was suspended. Scaparo wrote that Pinterest never offered to review these pins.
“By the way, I was never given a single option to review any of the alleged images or pins that violated the terms.”
In the past, social media sites were the judge, jury, and executioner of offending accounts. Now, however, if an individual wanted to take their account suspension to court, in the U.S.A. they could. With the precedent the Supreme Court set yesterday, they could win.
In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, do major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or small forums for that matter, have the right to suspend accounts? What about cases of obvious trolling or truly obscene posts? What about those ISIS recruiters? Does everyone have the right to post now?
While previously it would seem that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snap Chat were the private property of their owners, now they have been declared “the modern public square” by the Supreme Court. A public square is by nature not private property. Thus, legally speaking, perhaps neither Facebook nor Twitter has the right to ban Americans from their services, though that may be up for the courts to decide as this new body of law is interpreted.
Still, what sort of post on Facebook or Twitter tweet could equal a sex offender’s act of rape or child sexual abuse? Is there anything that could possibly be typed on Facebook that could begin to equal something like that?
Therefore, to comply with today’s Supreme Court decision, one would have to say that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media formats just lost their right to suspend, ban, or delete the accounts of American citizens. They may fight this, though, with some very expensive attorneys. Will this law hold up?
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The Supreme Court has opened a door that cannot be easily shut. Now courts will have a lot more First Amendment cases. Perhaps a whole new body of law has been born today.
The Supreme Court has declared Facebook and Twitter a public square and said access cannot be denied for any reason.
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