Murderous Threats on Facebook

Murderous Threats on Facebook

Mary Elizabeth Hagan, Reporter

The debate over how far the First Amendment, right to the freedom of speech, can protect an individual has been tested many times and is how being tested once more.
Elonis claims his post was a spontaneous expression of his inner feelings and should not be considered a real threat. Although, the government says the true test of a threat is if the victim feels threatened, not whether if it was intended to be threatening.
Anthony Elonis posted lyrics in explicit detail about his plans to murder his ex-wife on Facebook. Some details included shooting a kindergarten class and attacking a FBI agent.
An excerpt from his postings says, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”
His estranged wife felt threatened enough by his actions to press charges. He was convicted by a federal jury of breaking the law that makes it illegal to make threats against other people. His case was meant to help decide the extent of the First Amendment’s protection.
The case has drawn widespread attention from free speech activists that focus on social media. They claim that postings to websites such as Facebook and Twitter can be written impulsively and can be easily misinterpreted. The group of activists point out that any post can be taken out of context and used for personal benefit. “A statute that proscribes speech without regard to the speaker’s intended meaning runs the risk of punishing protected First Amendment expression simply because it is crudely or zealously expressed,” said a brief from the American Liberties Union and other groups.
After the first posting, Elonis was visited by a FBI agent who was questioning him about the threat. He decided to post about the encounter on Facebook, “Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the b**** ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat.”
Elonis was convicted and will face up to four years in a federal penitentiary. His appeal was rejected by the court.