Elonis v. United States

Posted: January 10, 2015 by beguide in case summaries

WHAT HAPPENED: Elonis is a criminal defendant who was arrested for making terroristic threats on the internet. Elonis’ threats came in the form of multiple Facebook posts that contained explicit rap lyrics that were related to Elonis’ ex-wife, making Elonis the worst type person to be friends with on Facebook.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Elonis claims that the charges against him violate his First Amendment rights of free speech, as his underlying criminal charges were decided by jury who were permitted to decide whether or not Elonis had the subjective intent to threaten his wife during the posting of the Facebook posts. The Court is now required to decide whether or not statements made on social media can be criminal actionable even though they are written in a public form and no personal context.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION: This decision could either expand or restrict the First Amendment rights of people using the internet. A decision against Elonis could lead law enforcement to seek criminal actions against “internet trolls”, or people who say horrible things on the internet without any fear of repercussions. A decision in favor of Elonis which would allow people to say whatever they want on the internet would basically just preserve the status quo of the internet.

WHAT WAS THE RULING: No ruling as of yet.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR ELONIS IF YOU: Are one of the following horrible groups of people: people who post horrible things on the internet, people who threaten women, people who post gratuitously on the internet, free speech advocates.

YOU SHOULD ROOT AGAINST ELONIS IF YOU: at the end of the day, are just looking for some peace and quiet when you are trying to find out which of the people you went to high school with are bald or fat.

WHO WAS RIGHT: Brett and Nazim both believed that Elonis’ conviction would stand, and both thought that this decision would not be as influential as you may hear on the news once the decision is released.


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