Freedom of speech or illegal

A man from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has his case going to the US Supreme Court because whether it is free-speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other social media.

The man was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for posting graphically violent rap lyrics on Facebook about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent.

His wife feared for her life after seeing the comments on Facebook. A female FBI agent went to his home to investigate and after she left he posted violent comments about the agent.

Some may say comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be hasty, impulsive and easily misinterpreted. They point out that a message on Facebook intended for a small group could be taken out of context when viewed by a wider audience. But to do so on multiple occasions?

The man said he was just venting his anger over a broken marriage and never meant to threaten anyone. Lawyers for the man argue that the government must prove he actually intended his comments to threaten others. The man also claims that rapper Eminem also used similar language in his songs.

A jury convicted the man of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to threaten another person. A federal appeals court rejected his claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has said that “true threats” to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment – but distinguished between this type of speech and protected speech.

If I am corrected about US law, if you utter a death threat to someone directly, what would be the difference between that or saying the same thing on Facebook or twitter – where way more people could see the threat.

Interesting to note that in Quebec, a politician threw his hat into the ring recently. Shortly after he received what was considered by some as a death threat from a man on Facebook and Twitter. Provincial police are investigating. Canadian laws do differ from the US. We’ll see what the outcome of this one is.

But clearly the man from Bethlehem is not “playing with a full deck” [i.e. missing a few screws].

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About ebraiter
computer guy

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