Friday, June 20, 2014

US Supreme Court hears online threat case

Here is a new case:
The Supreme Court has decided to take up a case dealing with the idea of the theoretic "reasonable person" and how this supposedly objective standard holds up when dealing with alleged threats. This case features a very unsympathetic appellant -- one who has a history of making unpleasant comments online.
Pennsylvania man Anthony Elonis has historically enjoyed saying outrageous things on Facebook, such as how he would like to murder his estranged wife; shoot up an elementary school; sneak into an amusement park he was fired from to wreak havoc; slit the throats of a female co-worker and a female FBI agent; and use explosives on the state police, the sheriff's department, and any SWAT team that might come to his house. Elonis has never actually done any of these things, but he did spend the last three and a half years in prison for saying that he would. This week, the Supreme Court said it's going to re-examine the case, meaning we'll get a federal decision on whether threats made online need to be made seriously to send the threat-maker to jail, or just need to be taken seriously by a reasonable person threatened.
Elonis' argument is that his threats were just "rap lyrics" intended to be read by only his friends. He also argues he never targeted anyone (ex-wife, schools, FBI) with these comments (specifically pointing to the fact that he never "tagged" any of his "targets" using Facebook's notification system) and that the supposed threats were taken out of context -- that context being that Elonis was known for posting outrageous comments.
This is too late to help Dan Brewington. He used his blog to tell his story and to hold family court official publicly accountable for their bad behavior, and he served a prison term for it. He didn't really even threaten anyone, and his conviction was under a law against exposing govt officials to ridicule.

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