The Supreme Court may have just made it harder to prosecute online threats, but there’s still much that can be done to fight harassment online.
In 2010, Anthony Elonis threatened his estranged wife by writing rants on his Facebook page such as, “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.”
For making these threats, a federal district court sentenced him to more than three years in prison.
On June 1, the Supreme Court voided that conviction, explaining that the standard the court had used to judge whether Elonis’s threats were “true threats” was not sufficient. The district court had asked jurors to consider only whether the threats would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that juries should also consider whether the defendant intended to make a true threat. The ruling will make it more difficult than ever to prosecute the authors of online death and rape threats.
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