Is It Illegal to Make Threats on Social Media?
It seems that social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have emboldened people to believe they can say whatever they want, whenever they want and to whomever they want. A case being tried before the U.S. Supreme Court may make you think twice about that assertion.
Anthony Elonis has been in prison for over three years for threats he posted on Facebook. Following his wife leaving him and taking their children in 2010, Elonis was fired from his job and began posting veiled threats. He made references to killing his wife, slicing the throat of an FBI agent, and shooting up a kindergarten class.
Elonis claims that he was quoting rap lyrics and that his words were protected under his First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear his appeal, and attempt to provide more clarity on when an internet post shouldn’t be taken seriously and when it is considered a “true threat.”
A “true threat” is not protected by the First Amendment, but there isn’t a clear cut unbiased way to determine if a Facebook post is a “true threat” or not. Elonis argues that his posts were no different from the lyrics of rappers like DMX or Eminem.
Is it fair to go to jail when you post a sarcastic comment in jest, with no harm meant? But how is one to objectively determine such a thing? People say all sorts of things all of the time on social media and it’s impossible to know for certain what is real and what isn’t.
At Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, our tested and trusted attorneys are highly experienced in all criminal defense matters and will fight for your freedom. If you’ve been charged with a crime in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, contact us immediately.