The Supreme Court announced today that they will hear the trial Anthony Elonis v. United States. The original trial sent a man who claimed to be a rapper to jail for the last three years for posting violent threats against his wife and others on Facebook.
His case isn’t as straightforward as most involving online threats: Elonis posted all of said threats to his Facebook wall, but never sent them directly to his intended “targets.” This has caused major controversy from those, like Elonis, who believe his conviction was an infringement on free speech. Still, his actions are pretty incriminating: He posted repeatedly about his desire to kill his wife along with other seemingly unrelated violent actions like murdering schoolchildren and bombing the police department. The Verge quoted some of the lyrics he wrote after his wife sought legal protection against him:
Fold up your [Protection From Abuse order] and put in your pocket
Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?
And if worse comes to worse
I’ve got enough explosives
to take care of the state police and the sheriff’s department
Elonis claims that his messages were not intended to be threatening but were purely meant as self expression. The Supreme Court’s ruling on this could determine how they rule in future cases of indirect internet based threats and intimidation, so it’s an important case for those who are pushing for harsher laws in these areas. He was convicted at both an appeals and district court, so it’d be a surprising decision for the Supreme Court to reverse it, but we’ll keep our eye on the case’s results. (Photo by @fischerfotos)