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United States Supreme Court To Decide How Threats Made Through Facebook And Other Forms of Social Media Are To Be Handled

On Monday, December 8, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument relative to threats that a husband made on social media. After separating from his wife in 2010, the husband made threats on Facebook that included violent language aimed at his estranged wife and rap lyric-style musings about shooting up an elementary school. The husband was convicted of violating a federal statute for making threats across state lines due to the threats he made against his wife and for the school rap. The husband has now served three years in prison while waiting for his appeal to reach the Supreme Court.  

The legal question is whether threats should be weighed under the objective standard of how a reasonable person would interpret the threatening language or whether a subjective standard of how the actual recipient would perceive the message should be used. The Supreme Court will have to decide this legal question while also considering the protections provided by the First Amendment, which permits free speech. While the Supreme Court will not release a decision until several months from now, the important thing to keep in mind is that if you threaten someone on Facebook or some other form of social media, you are making yourself vulnerable to a criminal conviction that will be very easy to prove in a court of law. 

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