Facebook, free speech and jail time
June 18, 2014
A poll being conducted by c/net is showing that the majority of people threatened with violence online would report it to the authorities. Few suggested reporting the threat to the site owners and even fewer would ignore it. I tend to shun government intervention. So, I voted to report it to the website, but then I seldom seem to go with the flow.

Should it be considered a crime or free speech when a person threatens to kill someone on social media? This question will be considered by the Supreme Court after a case in which a husband who threatened his wife was unsuccessfully appealed through lower courts. According to Richard Wolf's online article on June 16, 2014, in USA Today, the justices will decide whether Anthony Elonis crossed the line in 2010 when he wrote on Facebook about killing his wife and even the FBI agent who was investigating his actions. In granting certiorari, the Supreme Court in Elonis, Anthony D. v. United States has directed the parties to brief and argue the following question: "Whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. 875(c) requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten." In other words, what constitutes a threat--the perpetrator's subjective intent to threaten or anyone else's objective interpretation.

Elonis has claimed that he was exerting his right to free speech and that he was willing to go to jail for his constitutional rights. One of his diatribes allegedly was lifted verbatim from a sketch by The Whitest Kids U' Know comedy troupe, considered one of the most offensive, subversive and, of course, hilarious, groups working today. But I couldn't substantiate that.

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