Free speech gone too far? Supreme Court debates online threats

Brittany A. Roston - Jun 16, 2014
Free speech gone too far? Supreme Court debates online threats

Much in the same way you can’t shout fire! in a crowded theater, the Supreme Court is looking into whether it’s okay to shout murder! or any other number of threats on your social networking accounts. In doing so, it is taking on the case of Anthony Elonis, who was arrested a handful of years ago for making threats on Facebook.

Elonis’s case is a perfect example of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Back in 2010, the then-27-year-old’s wife left him with their two children, leading eventually to him losing his job from depression. Following this, Elonis began posting threatening material on Facebook.

The posts were often written in the style of rap lyrics, and according to Elonis, they were never real threats, instead serving as a type of venting for his emotions over the matter. The posts continued following a protection order taken out by his wife, and he was eventually arrested and sent to prison.

Though now free, the Supreme Court is looking into the case after being petitioned by Elonis. At the end of it all will come a very important decision: where does the line exist between parody and ranting and actual threats, and at what point — the poster’s intentions aside — does a mock threat hold the same weight as a real one?


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