The U.S. Supreme Court will be ruling on a case in which a man allegedly threatened his ex-spouse on Facebook. The case could affect the nature of freedom of speech as it applies to social networks.
Man Incited Fear with Gruesome Threats
In Elonis v. United States, a Pennsylvania man was accused of violently threatening his ex-wife after they separated in 2010. Among the threatening posts included one that said, "There's one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and drying from all the little cuts."
Eventually, the woman tried to put a restraining order on her spouse. However, the man responded with an even scarier post, "Fold up your PFA (protection from abuse order) and put it in your pocket. Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?" The man continued with other gruesome threats about killing an FBI agent, hurting police and shooting up a school.
In a previous case, the Supreme Court ruled that threatening to harm others with violence is not protected by the right to freedom of speech. This latest case will decide the issue of whether such threats are protected on Facebook or other social media websites.
At this time, the man is in prison because he was convicted of the threat crimes in a federal district court. However, if he is successful in his Supreme Court criminal appeal, he could be released.
Different Views on the Topic
Some believe that the case could represent a pivotal moment for freedom of speech on the Internet and the limitations that will be placed on it in the future. Certain First Amendment advocates claim that statements on social media should not be seen as threats because they can be misconstrued; rather, they believe they should be viewed as statements that happen at the spur of the moment.
However, the National Center for Victims of Crime believes that the man should be convicted in this case. According to the center, people who are threatened by stalkers suffer emotionally, financially and socially as a result of the abuse -- and it does not matter what the actual intent of the person was while making the threats.
What do you think about this topic? Post your comments below!
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