The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an important First amendment challenge to determine when Internet threats should be taken seriously by the law. The case will hopefully clarify whether threats of violence made on FACEBOOK should be judged based upon whether the person making the threats intended harm or whether the recipient of the threat was genuinely afraid of being harmed.
In light of recent shootings and other acts of violence that were telegraphed in social media, the answer to that question is Urgent!
The case before the Court deals with an area of First Amendment law known as “true threats”. these kinds of threats are not protected speech. The trick is in figuring out whether the threat is a “true threat” within the meaning of the law. The problem is that the courts have not yet looked at the question of “true threats” through the social media like Facebook.
This case is crucially important as it will force the court to clarify its “true threats” doctrine and apply it to social media. At the very least, this is a case about the line between First Amendment performance art, fantasy violence, real threats and real fear. In a world where it is virtually impossible to differentiate between an idle threat and a real one, it will determine where that line lies, or if there IS a line at all.
Thanks to Dahlia Lithwick and the Sun Sentinel, and
Thanks for “listening”.
The Neu Facebook