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Thread: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

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    Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Anthony Elonis claimed he was just kidding when he posted a series of graphically violent rap lyrics on Facebook about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent.But his wife didn't see it that way. Neither did a federal jury.
    Elonis, who's from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was convicted of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to threaten another person.
    In a far-reaching case that probes the limits of free speech over the Internet, the Supreme Court on Monday was to consider whether Elonis' Facebook posts, and others like it, deserve protection under the First Amendment.
    (AP) This Oct. 7, 2014, file photo shows a police officer dwarfed amid the marble...
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    Elonis argues that his lyrics were simply a crude and spontaneous form of expression that should not be considered threatening if he did not really mean it. The government says it does not matter what Elonis intended, and that the true test of a threat is whether his words make a reasonable person feel threatened.One post about his wife said, "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."
    The case has drawn widespread attention from free-speech advocates who 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.

    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20141130/us--supreme_court-facebook_threats-54ede78cfd.html
    Not sure what you all think of this, but my personal feeling is that the authorities should stay the hell out of monitoring what people say on mediums like Facebook unless they have some kind of specific threat to follow up...As much as I disagree with bullies, and thugs on the internet, I must defend their right to free speech because someday it may be extended further down in ugly ways...Thoughts?
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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by j-mac View Post
    Not sure what you all think of this, but my personal feeling is that the authorities should stay the hell out of monitoring what people say on mediums like Facebook unless they have some kind of specific threat to follow up..
    What he said on FB was a threat, especially from the victim's perspective. He also continued the same behavior after being confronted by authorities. He's got no excuses.

    As much as I disagree with bullies, and thugs on the internet, I must defend their right to free speech because someday it may be extended further down in ugly ways...Thoughts?
    Free speech has its limitations, and threatening/encouraging violence should certainly be one of them, whether it be on the internet or on a street corner.

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by j-mac View Post
    Not sure what you all think of this, but my personal feeling is that the authorities should stay the hell out of monitoring what people say on mediums like Facebook unless they have some kind of specific threat to follow up...As much as I disagree with bullies, and thugs on the internet, I must defend their right to free speech because someday it may be extended further down in ugly ways...Thoughts?
    Agreed- it's dicey. I can see both sides of the issue, but my inclination is to come down on the side of protected speech rights, unless there is an actual physical threat exhibited by action.
    "God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently and recklessly, all things which alter my plans and intentions, and change the course of my life, for better or for worse."
    -C G Jung

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't instances for the FBI and other Law Enforcement agencies that track the Internet. When do you as a Police Officer act when someone makes a threat to kill someone else over the internet? Do we act before hand and trample on the First Amendment right for someone to say "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." When he admits it was a bone headed thing to say, or do we ignore posts like these and as a result a murder happens that could have been prevented.

    It's tough to gauge and even tougher to decide on where we draw the line on Government agencies spying on Facebook and Twitter posts. I don't believe in censorship, yet at the same time if we have the ability to deter something as horrific as a murder shouldn't we use it? Personally, I don't know where to stand on the issue.

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    He loses and I really hope the opinion states something to the effect of: "Only a complete imbecile would remain FB friends with their ex, especially when they are intending to talk **** about them on FB".

    Social media is used in divorce cases to the detriment of somebody on a regular basis, especially Facebook.

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by j-mac View Post
    Not sure what you all think of this, but my personal feeling is that the authorities should stay the hell out of monitoring what people say on mediums like Facebook unless they have some kind of specific threat to follow up...As much as I disagree with bullies, and thugs on the internet, I must defend their right to free speech because someday it may be extended further down in ugly ways...Thoughts?
    It is a fascinating case, though your article overplays the internet aspect. At issue is not free speech over the internet, but whether intent is required for something to be a threat. Basically, Elonis says he did not intend for his lyrics to be a threat towards his ex-wife, and therefore he did not do anything wrong. The state says that intent does not matter, that if an average person looking objectively at the words would find them threatening, then it is a threat. The medium the threats where transmitted on is only relevant as context.

    And I am really torn on that issue. I can see how his ex-wife would be legitimately scared reading those lyrics he posted and feel threatened. However, why should some one be subject to jail time and other penalties because some one else misunderstood his intent? I think for me what this comes down to is when in doubt, you err on the side of the right. Rights are good things, but all can and will be used to do bad things. Westboro Baptist church is a vile group, but they still have the right to free speech and to do vile things which cause distress to others. In this case, Elonis's lyrics where vile and hurtful, but absent clear evidence he actually intended them to be threatening, he should have the right to be vile and hurtful.

    Some further reading on the case from the always excellent SCOTUSBlog: Drawing a line between therapy and threats: In Plain English : SCOTUSblog

    And SCOTUSBlog's case page: Elonis v. United States : SCOTUSblog
    We became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers - Lindsey Graham

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by a351 View Post
    What he said on FB was a threat, especially from the victim's perspective. He also continued the same behavior after being confronted by authorities. He's got no excuses.



    Free speech has its limitations, and threatening/encouraging violence should certainly be one of them, whether it be on the internet or on a street corner.
    Slow down there, Skippy. That same speech (lyrics?) which resulted in the conviction of one man did not result in the conviction of those that wrote them, performed them in public or who continue to profit from their sale. When we allow folks to offer "dead or alive" bounties and to say "burn the bitch down", which are far more "disturbing" should they incite others to act on them, then why arrest one man for repeating (quoting?), otherwise completely legal, song lyrics?
    Last edited by ttwtt78640; 11-30-14 at 11:47 AM.
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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    It is a fascinating case, though your article overplays the internet aspect. At issue is not free speech over the internet, but whether intent is required for something to be a threat. Basically, Elonis says he did not intend for his lyrics to be a threat towards his ex-wife, and therefore he did not do anything wrong. The state says that intent does not matter, that if an average person looking objectively at the words would find them threatening, then it is a threat. The medium the threats where transmitted on is only relevant as context.

    And I am really torn on that issue. I can see how his ex-wife would be legitimately scared reading those lyrics he posted and feel threatened. However, why should some one be subject to jail time and other penalties because some one else misunderstood his intent? I think for me what this comes down to is when in doubt, you err on the side of the right. Rights are good things, but all can and will be used to do bad things. Westboro Baptist church is a vile group, but they still have the right to free speech and to do vile things which cause distress to others. In this case, Elonis's lyrics where vile and hurtful, but absent clear evidence he actually intended them to be threatening, he should have the right to be vile and hurtful.

    Some further reading on the case from the always excellent SCOTUSBlog: Drawing a line between therapy and threats: In Plain English : SCOTUSblog

    And SCOTUSBlog's case page: Elonis v. United States : SCOTUSblog
    It goes far beyond that; these lyrics did not originate with that posting yet others did originate those lyrics, copyrighted them and continue to market them. Why is it illegal for Mr. X to say what others may legally say and even to profit from saying? Where these lyrics only "offensive and threatening" because Mrs. X does not like Mr. X? Why did Mrs. X not sue the originator of those words and only sought to stop Mr. X from repeating them?
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by a351 View Post
    What he said on FB was a threat, especially from the victim's perspective. He also continued the same behavior after being confronted by authorities. He's got no excuses.
    Excuses?
    The first Amendment needs no excuses.


    Quote Originally Posted by a351 View Post
    Free speech has its limitations, and threatening/encouraging violence should certainly be one of them, whether it be on the internet or on a street corner.
    Limitations are in place to prevent a good chance of harm from occurring.
    There was no chance of harm occurring here as there was no intent.




    To the topic.
    Intent should matter.
    “The law is reason, free from passion.”
    Aristotle
    (≚ᄌ≚)

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    Re: Justices weigh limits of free speech over Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by ttwtt78640 View Post
    It goes far beyond that; these lyrics did not originate with that posting yet others did originate those lyrics, copyrighted them and continue to market them. Why is it illegal for Mr. X to say what others may legally say and even to profit from saying? Where these lyrics only "offensive and threatening" because Mrs. X does not like Mr. X? Why did Mrs. X not sue the originator of those words and only sought to stop Mr. X from repeating them?
    Context. Those lyrics at some unnamed individual are not threats. Aimed at an individual, they could very well be under the law. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, [b]except/b] when there really is a fire. Same word, but in two different situations, different liability. Context is always important.

    In this case I don't to my mind think the context is enough to make those words actual threats, but just because they are actual song lyrics does not impact on my reasoning.
    We became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers - Lindsey Graham

    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddytree View Post
    Uh oh Megyn...your vagina witchcraft is about ready to be exposed.

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