Limits Coming To Free Speech on Internet?

November 30, 2014

Anthony Elonis claims he was 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. And 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 court case that looks at the limits of free speech over the Internet, the Supreme Court on Monday (December 1) is to consider whether Elonis’ Facebook posts, and others like it, deserve protection under the First Amendment.


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.

What do you think?

The case is Elonis v. United States, 13-983.