Geoffrey R. Stone on Courts Restricting Young Offenders' Social Media

Illinois courts clash: Does limiting juvenile offenders' social media use step on free speech?

When it came time to sentence the teen convicted in a South Side armed robbery, a Cook County juvenile court judge imposed what has become a common restriction in the digital age.

The 17-year-old, whom the Tribune is not naming because he was charged as a juvenile, was given three years of probation — but also was told to wipe his Facebook feed and any other social media accounts clean of references to “gangs, guns and drugs” and refrain from posting on those topics while on probation.


“The key question here is — Is there a sufficient justification for putting this restriction on defendants?” said University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, a First Amendment expert. “It’s like saying, ‘We’ll let you out on probation but you can’t go in this neighborhood.’ It’s perfectly sensible that this is what (judges are) trying to do in the complicated world of social media.”

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