SCOTUS: Violent, Threatening Posts On Facebook Not Enough To Convict

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Posted 2 years ago

HR

Court Rules: Bulk Collection Of Phone Records Is IllegalA decision handed down on Monday by the Supreme Court of The United States is set to add further fuel and confusion to the debate over what exactly constitutes a viable threat via the Internet.

The SCOTUS decision in the case of Anthony D. Elonis overturned his conviction in Pennsylvania based on Facebook comments he posted that threatened his ex-wife, threatened to blow up a school and threatened his former co-workers.

The conviction was made on the state level on the basis that these people had a reasonable right to feel as if their lives were at risk.

The court’s decision to overturn the judgement by a 7-2 vote was on the basis that they felt that there wasn’t enough to go on.

In the opinion offered by Chief Justice John Roberts, he stated: “Our holding makes clear that negligence is not sufficient to support a conviction.”

Elonis claimed that the posts weren’t meant to be anything but artistic expression inspired by rap lyrics from the artist Eminem, and that he had a right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment.

Elonis did receive a four year sentence in federal prison, but was released last year.

The decision is the first heard by the SCOTUS in reference to free speech and social media.

This decision was not made without some spirited dissent from Justice Samuel Alito, who noted that there were no further details as to the grounds for the votes of dismissal.

In the dissenting opinion, he wrote, “The court refuses to explain what type of intent was necessary. Was it enough if he knew that his words conveyed such a threat? Would recklessness suffice? The court declines to say. Attorneys and judges are left to guess.”

The case now goes back to the state level, but if they uphold the original sentence Elonis will be expected to go back to prison.

Christopher A. Smith

HR

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