Social media websites are great places to vent your frustrations and to communicate with friends. The things you post do reflect on you, though, and sometimes the things you say can be taken out of context. When this happens, you could be accused of being threatening or harassing, even though you weren’t attempting to be.
This is what happened in a case reported on June 1. According to the story, a man was allegedly threatening his wife and others. The case recently went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was found that there should be limits to convictions based on Facebook posts, because even if someone sees a post as a threat, that doesn’t mean the person is responsible for threatening behavior.
For instance, one of the man’s posts had indicated that he wanted his estranged wife to die. While that’s the way the man’s wife saw it when she requested a protective order, the same post could also be read as rap lyrics or an expression of anger with no intent on acting on that feeling.
The Supreme Court had to look at the writings and decide if they were a real threat. Determining the intent behind the writing on social media is the only way to know what is meant by an update. In this man’s case, his previous conviction was overturned, because the justice system did not believe that he was a genuine threat to others based on his account. There has to be protection against the first amendment rights, the right to a freedom of speech, being violated.
Source: Huff Post Politics, “Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Man Convicted Of Threatening Wife On Facebook,” Dana Liebelson, June 01, 2015