U.S Gov Final Draft
Elonis vs United States
Social Media and Free speech
Facebook had only been created six years prior and, it was still relatively new to the people. The rules on how to properly use the app had not been made clear yet. The rapid growth in technology makes it challenging to interpret ideas and, determine true intents to one's actions. However, The decision of the supreme court that one’s “true intent” must be proven to be convicted is dangerous to society.
Elonis vs. United States is a relatively recent and strange case for the supreme court, mainly because, it involves the use of the internet. The defendant, Anthony Elonis posted several statements via Facebook that appears to threaten his ex-wife, children, an FBI agent, law enforcement officers and, other individuals in his life. Prior to the posts, Elonis had been facing challenges with his wife as well as losing his job. On December 8, 2010 Elonis was arrested on five counts of violating a federal anti-threat statute. A trial was held before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where Elonis was accused of transmitting a threat to harm another individual(s) under the anti-threat statute. Elonis asked to have his charges dismissed stating that his posts weren’t real threats. He continued to argue that “he was an aspiring rap artist and that his comments were merely a form of artistic expression and a therapeutic release to help him deal with the events in his life.”(US courts). Despite the fact that all the individuals who he threatened perceived it as such, Elonis argued that he could not be prosecuted of making the threats because, he didn’t intend for the posts to be threats. The court denied Elonis’ motion, and informed the jury that the defendant can be convicted if people receiving the comments perceive it as a threat. The U.S court of appeals for the third circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Elonis was convicted and sentenced to 44 months of incarceration along with 3 years of supervision after his release. Elonis took the case to the U.S supreme court where one of the biggest arguments were made. The argument being whether a conviction of threatening another person under federal anti-threat statute require proof that the defendant meant what he said in a literal sense. While both the district and appeals’ court decided that the answer to this question simply lies under whether the person(s) being threatened perceived it as a threat. The U.S supreme court decided for Elonis and, against the decision of the lower court. Elonis argued that in the case of Virginia vs Black, the supreme court’s decision of true threat “barred the prosecution his prosecution absent proof that he subjectively intended to threaten the subjects of his posts”(HLR).
On June 1, 2015, the supreme court reversed and remanded the decision made in the lower court in an 8-1 decision for Elonis. In an opinion delivered by Chief Justice Robert, the court h...