The U.S. Supreme Court has made it harder for prosecutors to convict people who make threats on social media, The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports.
Petitioner Anthony Elonis was convicted of threatening to kill his estranged wife, law enforcement officials and a kindergarten class through Facebook posts written in a rap lyric-esque way; he was convicted under a federal law that makes it a crime to communicate '''any threat to injure the person of another.'"
But the high court, in a narrow opinion, said that Elonis' state of mind had to be considered, Barnes reports. The majority of the justices rejected the idea that a poster's intent is immaterial in judging whether he or she has stepped outside the bounds of the First Amendment and truly threatened others. Lower courts have found that what matters is only if a reasonable person would interpret the words as a threat.
The court's narrow ruling leaves it up to the lower courts to develop exactly what standard should be applied to determine if a poster has made a true threat.