Threats via Facebook not criminal, Supreme Court rules

apple samsung supreme court shutterstock
On June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, stated that Facebook threats are not criminal – at least until it is proven that they have some measure of intent. While free speech defenders welcome the ruling, it presents a problem for victims of those who use social media as a place to spread fear.

In the case Elonis v. United States, rapper Anthony Elonis, who goes by the pseudonym, “Tone Dougie,” used Facebook to post rap lyrics that allegedly glorified violence against his ex-wife. Despite Elonis claiming that he had a right to do so under the First Amendment and that the lyrics were “fictitious” and not meant to depict real persons, he was fired from his job. In addition, his ex-wife obtained a state court protection-from-abuse order against him, and his former employer reported him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Elonis was arrested and charged with five counts of violating 18 U. S. C. §875(c), which makes it a federal crime to communicate any violent threats across state lines. Elonis requested that the government prove that he was intending to communicate a “true threat.” The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that “The Third Circuit’s instruction, requiring only negligence with respect to the communication of a threat, is not sufficient to support a conviction under Section 875(c).” However, it does not excuse Elonis, as the case is being sent back to a lower court.

According to USA Today, Chief Justice John Roberts says, “The jury was instructed that the government need prove only that a reasonable person would regard Elonis’s communications as threats, and that was an error. Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant’s mental state,” saying that additional context is required to determine whether the threat is real or not.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenting vote. Justice Samuel Alito, while part of the majority, said that the ruling would not sit well with lower courts, as well as the general public. “The court’s disposition of this case is certain to cause confusion and serious problems,” he said. “The court declines to say…attorneys and judges are left to guess. This will have regrettable consequences,” he added.

News

New Hampshire judge tells Amazon to turn over Echo recordings in murder case

A New Hampshire judge has directed Amazon to turn over Echo recordings to help solve a double homicide. The prosecution believes the device may have recorded conversations, or even the crime itself.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Social Media

Twitter tests home screen button that offers more control of your timeline

Twitter recently relaunched its reverse-chronological timeline, but accessing it means diving into settings. Now the company is testing a button on the main screen that lets you switch between the two different styles of timeline.
Social Media

Snapchat’s PR firm is suing an influencer for failing to influence

Snapchat's PR firm is suing a social media influencer for his alleged failure to promote Spectacles on Instagram. Actor Luka Sabbat was paid $45,000 upfront, but the suit claims he fell well short of the terms of the deal.
Mobile

WhatsApp finally gives in to the lure of cash-generating ads

WhatsApp's co-founders always said their messaging app would never show ads, but once the pair quit the company, it seemed inevitable that its owner, Facebook, would find a way to incorporate them.
Computing

Urban legends for the digital age: The best scary stories from the internet

In need of some simple scares this Halloween? We've combed the internet for the best creepypastas, urban legends, and scary stories. From found footage YouTube videos to a deceptively scary wiki, these stories are sure to spook.
Mobile

Shazam hooks up with Instagram Stories for another way to share songs

The latest update for Apple-owned Shazam lets iPhone users share music tracks to Instagram Stories in a few quick taps. To enable the feature, just make sure you have the latest version of Shazam loaded on your handset.
Social Media

Dine and dash(board): Make a Yelp reservation from your car’s control panel

Already in the car, but can't decide where to eat? Yelp Reservations can now be added to some dashboard touchscreens. Yelp Reservations searches for restaurants within 25 miles of the vehicle's location.
Computing

Hackers sold 120 million private Facebook messages, report says

Up to 120 million private Facebook messages were being sold online by hackers this fall. The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions. 
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. You're in luck -- we've gathered 23 of the best subreddits to help…
Social Media

Facebook opens pop-up stores at Macy’s, but they’re not selling the Portal

Facebook has opened pop-up stores at multiple Macy's, though they're not selling Facebook's new Portal device. Instead, they're showcasing small businesses and brands that are already popular on Facebook and Instagram.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger will soon let you delete sent messages

A feature coming to Facebook Messenger will let you delete a message for up to 10 minutes after you send it. The company promised the feature months ago and this week said it really is on its way ... "soon."