Facebook Case May Limit Free Speech

Melissa Brown Contributor
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The U.S Supreme Court is open for business Monday, and has agreed to determine when an online threat should be protected under the First Amendment.

Anthony Elonis was convicted in 2010 for his threating rap lyrics that he posted on Facebook. His Facebook post mentioned harming his ex-wife, the state police, an FBI agent and an unnamed kindergarten class. The judge sentenced him to 44 months in jail. Elonis states that his posts were therapeutic, and protected under his First Amendment rights, reports Slate.

“Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife? It’s illegal. It’s indirect criminal contempt. It’s one of the only sentences that I’m not allowed to say. Now it was okay for me to say it right then because I was just telling you that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife.” Elonis wrote in a Facebook post, reports Bloomberg.

The Supreme Court will hear the case on Dec. 1, to determine if threats on the Internet are actual violations of federal law. The Elonis v. United States case will deal with an area of First Amendment law known as “true threats.” Objective people test the “true threats” by judging whether the threat made was actually intended to inflict harm. Elonis disagrees with the “true threat” test, and claims that the test should look at whether he planned for the posts to be interpreted as a threat. Elonis’ attorneys contends that Elonis never planned actual violence, reports Reuters.

“Art is about pushing limits,” he posted. “I’m willing to go to jail for my constitutional rights. Are you?” said Elonis.