The Supreme Court is wading into the question of when a social-media post rises to the level of a criminal threat, reports the Wall Street Journal. A case argued yesterday involves a Pennsylvania man's conviction after comments he made to his estranged wife and others on Facebook. The case pits law-enforcement and victims' rights groups against free-speech advocates. It could affect how freely individuals can speak online and in traditional forums.
Yesterday’s argument featured discussions between the justices and lawyers about violent rap music and tweets about the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. The justices searched for a middle ground that would protect free speech yet allow prosecutors to target people who make “true threats.” Previous high court rulings have said the government can prohibit such threats, but it haven’t been clear what they are. At issue is the 2011 conviction of Anthony Elonis for posting threats on Facebook against his estranged wife, law enforcement and local elementary schools. Elonis, who served about three years in prison.