When the President of the United States, every governor, every member of Congress, and—as Justice Kagan remarked—virtually every under-30 and 35 year-old in the country has a Twitter account, it’s time for social media to be recognized as a pervasive and protectable form of speech. On Monday, during oral arguments in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to emphatically agree. The case concerns a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from “accessing” any “commercial social networking websites” whose membership also includes minors. In particular, SCOTUS made several statements on the nature of social media:
Political campaigns have increasingly turned to social media as a channel to reach voters. Social media not only has the power to reach audiences numbering in the billions, but it also has the power to change the behavior of its users. This far-reaching influence is nothing new—advertisers pay lots of money to use these channels to sell and market their products to targeted audiences. But, could this power be used to sway voters, and is there anything that prevents social media companies from getting into the game of politics?