Its not unusual to see abuse on the internet, unfortunately even in this day and age its rampant. The Supreme Court has decided to take up a case that presents a conundrum which has already sparked a lot of debate on free speech. Its going to decide when violent fantasies posted on Facebook are liable to be considered as criminal threats. Two lower federal courts ruled that threats made by one Anthony Elonis against his ex-wife and an FBI agent in 2010 on Facebook were criminal.
Back in 2010, Elonis took to Facebook to express his rage after his wife left with their two children. He posted rap lyrics that he wrote himself and even posted text updates on Facebook about people he apparently intended to kill. The lyrics also mentioned killing schoolchildren and even bombing the police who might try to stop him from shooting his ex-wife.
When an FBI agent found out what Elonis was posting online she paid him a visit. In a subsequent update Elonis posted lyrics about slitting her throat, which ultimately led to his arrest and saw him being charged and sentenced to 44 months in prison in late 2011.
Elonis’ legal team is now seeking a review of his conviction from the court, they contend that he never actually intended to commit an actual act of violence. He never tagged any of the people mentioned in his lyrics or posts and wasn’t even friends on Facebook with his wife. So even if what he wrote expressed a wish for all those people to get hurt, Elonis shouldn’t have been convicted if he never meant for them to see any of it in the first place.
On the other hand, the Justice Department wants the ruling made by the appeals court to stand. It believes that Elonis acted irresponsibly by publicly posting the lyrics and intention doesn’t matter as they were quite obviously negative. A Supreme Court ruling on the matter would certainly make things a lot clearer for similar cases in the future.