Should You Go to Jail For Making Threats on Facebook?

Illustration for article titled Should You Go to Jail For Making Threats on Facebook?

The Supreme Court announced that it will hear the appeal of Anthony Elonis, a man convicted and sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for making threats over Facebook—threats that were often in the form of rap lyrics—according to The Morning Call, the local newspaper covering the case.

Elonis claims his threats to kill his wife, slash an FBI agent's throat, and kill a class of kindergartners were just rap lyrics and not indicative of future actions, nothing we haven't heard from rappers like Eminem, and he should be protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court says it will decide "whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of threatening another person under [federal law] requires proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten."

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Should you go to jail for posting seemingly threatening comments on social media, even if they may be sarcastic? Should intent be considered? Could your sarcasm land you in jail?

As it stands today, you may want to think twice about that brilliant idea of posting the lyrics to "Cop Killer" on Facebook. Though your intentions may be pure (as much as they can be whilst posting the lyrics to one of the most notorious songs in the last 30 years), someday soon it might land you in jail. [SCOTUSblog via Recode]

Photo Credit: AP Images

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DISCUSSION

Gut reaction: Yes

Thought out reaction: Yes. It's the same as verbal speech. Threats are threats. Songs are songs until they're written down on page and sent to someone else. If it's just on your own personal page, I say it's not a threat. If you write it down and post it on another's page it's a threat. Sending a message to someone is the same as talking to them.

I guess that's my thoughts on the matter. This guy sounds like a moron but I don't know that he should have gotten 4 years in jail if he was just writing on his own page.