Are threats really threats?
Well, you can’t always tell, but you don’t always want to risk it, either.
The Supreme Court is about to consider Facebook threats to murder the ex-wife brand of threats.
The US Supreme Court is to decide whether violent threats or images posted on Facebook and other social networks constitute free speech or a criminal act, in the case of a man who made comments about his estranged wife.
Anthony Elonis wrote about killing his wife publicly on Facebook and also posted other comments and images about her, about his co-workers and about the law enforcement officials who investigated the threats.
“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you,” he wrote about his wife. “I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”
Looks like a threat to me.
Elonis claims that the posts were just artistic expressions and his way of dealing with his personal problems, not indications that he wanted to harm anyone. But both the lower court and the appeals court ruled that the posts were criminal threats, because even if he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, a reasonable person would have felt threatened by them.
“Although the language was — as with popular rap songs addressing the same themes — sometimes violent, petitioner posted explicit disclaimers in his profile explaining that his posts were ‘fictitious lyrics,’ and he was ‘only exercising [his] constitutional right to freedom of speech’,” his filing to the Supreme Court said.
In order to frighten his ex-wife. I don’t consider that a “right.”
Elonis and his legal team have pushed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, with free speech advocacy group the Thomas Jefferson Centre for the Protection of Free Expression also supporting his attempt to have the court consider the issue.
It’s a threat. There shouldn’t be a right to make credible-looking threats.