Facebook Threats Case Goes Before the Supreme Court

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The case of Elonis v. United States, 13-983 is set to go before the Supreme Court on Monday. Justices will hear arguments and determine if the use of threatening or violent language while on Facebook and other social media platforms falls under a person’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania resident, Anthony Elonis was sentenced to almost four years in prison after he posted violent rap music lyrics on Facebook following his separation from his wife. The lyrics spoke of 1,000 ways to kill his wife and leave her body soaked in blood. The lyrics also spoke of firing shots in a kindergarten class and attacking an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

While Elonis’ estranged wife and federal prosecutors took the Facebook posting as a threat against her life, he said it was nothing more than his way of venting his frustration because their marriage was ending.

Elonis was tried and convicted of threatening another person. He appealed the court’s decision saying his comments were protected by his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. However, the appellate court rejected his claims.

For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has held fast that “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment. During the course of Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court Justices will hear arguments and examine the case more closely.

By Donna W. Martin

Associated Press
Photo by Rob Crawley – Flickr License