Reality Check: Facebook Threats Legal--If You Don't Mean It - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Reality Check: Facebook Threats Legal--If You Don't Mean It

(Source: FOX19 NOW File) (Source: FOX19 NOW File)
FOX19 - Freedom of Speech has its limits; You can't threaten the President of the United States while here in Ohio you can't threaten the governor either.

However, online and on social media The 1st Amendment gives you the right to threaten just about anyone else ,just so long as you don't actually mean it.

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Anthony Elonis, who was sentenced to 44 months in jail in Pennsylvania for threatening to murder his then ex-wife and behead an FBI agent investigating him using Facebook to carry out his threats. This, just one of his many posts:
"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 dying
from all the little cuts."

Attorneys for Elonis argued that he didn't intend to harm anyone. That they weren't "true threats"and that he was simply venting frustration artistically comparing him to rappers who use violent imagery in their songs. The high court ruled that prosecutors failed to prove Elonis would make good on his threats. 

FOX19 Now Legal Analyst Mike Allen says the prosecution's case hinged on what was in the mind of the accused. 

"Proving intent is extremely's a question for a judge or jury and it's hard to do," Allen said.

Using technology as a means of threatening others is becoming more common. According to the Department of Justice more than 1-in-4
victims of stalking reported that they were threatened on their computer.

  • 83 percent of those threats coming in an email
  • 12 percent in either a blog or bulletin board
  • 4 percent in a chat room
For victims the news isn't all bad: Allen says that the Supreme Court's ruling does not change the law here in Ohio.

"What is relevant is what is in the mind of the victim...did the victim perceive it as a credible threat...not what the accused thinks...but what the victim thinks," Allen said.

The ACLU stood firmly behind Elonis arguing that limiting speech "without regard to the speaker¹s intended meaning" runs the risk of punishing
First Amendment expression. The Supreme Court agreed. That's the bottom line and that's Reality Check. 

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