The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a post made on Facebook and possibly other social media, cannot be considered threatening if the author claims he/she didn’t intend for the posting to be perceived that way.
A man was convicted for making violent remarks about his wife, law enforcement and other people on Facebook. The wife filed a complaint and the man was ultimately convicted. The conviction was struck down by the Supreme Court, stating that since the man did not intend the remarks as threatening or intimidating to his wife and others, the conviction could not stand.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 8-1 decision for a near-unanimous court. It was based only on the court’s interpretation of a federal statute, rather than more broadly under the First Amendment. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented while Justice Samuel Alito dissented, in part. Both would have said mere recklessness on the husband’s part would be sufficient for conviction; Roberts left it up to the lower court to decide that question first.