The Supreme Court just decided that the threshold used to convict a Pennsylvania man for making threats on the Internet was too low. Anthony D. Elonis posted multiple violent messages on his Facebook page after his wife left him, including one about killing his wife and another about potentially committing the “most heinous school shooting ever imagined.” In convicting him, the original court said it was enough that a “reasonable person” would interpret Elonis’s posts as threatening.
The Supreme Court said that didn’t matter, that freedom of speech prevailed — and that a conviction should have been possible only if there was a belief that he intended to make good on his threats. Elonis claimed he was inspired by rap music, especially Eminem, in choosing his language. In this case an inspirational rap lyric from Eminem might be this one: “Play nice? Bitch I’ll punch Lana Del Rey right in the face twice, like Ray Rice in broad daylight in the plain sight of the elevator surveillance/ ’Til her head is banging on the railing, then celebrate with the Ravens.”