U.S. Supreme Court ruling could imperil Texas sex offender rules

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Abby Livingston

by Andy Duehren | The Texas Tribune

Texas rules barring sex offenders from using certain websites were thrown into jeopardy Monday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar statute in North Carolina violates the First Amendment.

The case, North Carolina v. Packingham, centered on a North Carolina rules that prevents sex offenders from using social networking sites where children may also be members. Texas also restricts the web sites that registered offenders are allowed to use. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was one of 13 state attorneys general to sign a brief to the high court defending the restrictions.

“The problem is that social media is a dangerous place for children and that registered sex offenders disproportionately commit additional sex crimes online,” the attorneys general wrote.

Still, the Supreme Court was unconvinced, ruling Monday that the North Carolina law “impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

Along with barring sex offenders from using certain websites, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also restricts prisoners from having personal pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram run in their name by others.

Representatives from Paxton's office and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday morning.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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