The US Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will consider a case involving a thorny free speech issue in the digital age: at what point does a statement made on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter cross the threshold from protected free speech under the First Amendment to a criminally actionable threat?
The case, Elonis v. United States, which we’ve previously covered in some detail, has reached the nation’s high court on appeal, after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that defendant Anthony Elonis’ 2010 Facebook rants mentioning attacks on an elementary school, his estranged wife, and even law enforcement, constituted a “true threat” under First Amendment precedent. As such, the court upheld Elonis’ sentence and conviction.
In his petition to the Supreme Court, Elonis’ counsel said the issue boils down to “whether a person can be convicted of the felony ‘speech crime’ of making a threat only if he subjectively intended to threaten another person or whether instead he can be convicted if he negligently misjudges how his words will be construed and a ‘reasonable person’ would deem them a threat.”
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