The Supreme Court Overturned The Conviction Of A Facebook Troll


As we all know, Facebook can be a beautiful thing, or it can be an unmitigated cesspool of stupidity and hatred. Fortunately for all those relatives you ever-so-quietly mute, the Supreme Court has just ruled that it’s okay to tell somebody you’ll slit their throat on the internet.

No, seriously. The case in question was for Anthony Elonis, who you might remember inspired a Chief Justice to rap ’97 Bonnie and Clyde. Among Elonis’ charming wordplay:

Pull my knife, flick my wrist, and slit her throat
Leave her bleedin’ from her jugular in the arms of her partner [laughter]
So the next time you knock, you best be serving a warrant
And bring yo’ SWAT and an explosives expert while you’re at it

The court is actually right in this particular case. Elonis was either just blowing off steam and did it in public like an idiot, or was just smart enough to realize that directly telling his wife he was going to slit her throat for divorcing him would get him in legal trouble. That said, Elonis v. United States is troublingly vague on what, precisely, would actually constitute a real threat on the internet, which is a situation we genuinely need action on. Violent threats are an enormous problem on the internet, so much so that Justice Alito actually called the court out for offering neither guidance nor standards on the issue. And law enforcement doesn’t take them entirely seriously in the first place. It’s arguably a case of the court failing to consider the wider implications of the ruling.

But, for now, legally, you can be a dick on Facebook. Whether it’s right… well, that’s another matter entirely.

(via SCOTUSBlog)