Monday, June 01, 2015

SCOTUS overturns "Facebook threat" conviction of Elonis, but questions remain to be settled by lower courts

The Supreme Court has tossed out a conviction of Anthony Elonis in federal court in Pennsylvania, for “threats” made on a Facebook based on previously performed (maybe copyrighted?) rap lyrics by Eminem.  NPR has a typical news story,by Bill Chappell, here. The Court ruled that the judge did not adequately instruct the jury on what constitutes a real threat in ambiguous circumstances like this.  When is a metaphor a threat?  SCOTUS said that “how a reasonable person would perceive a statement” is not an adequate standard, but wants a lower court to review the case on determining the appropriate standard.
There were seven concurring votes, one dissent (Thomas) and one mixed (Alito), which appears to be important. 

It would seem conceivable that another trial could happen, but unlikely.  

I had gone to the oral arguments form the three-minute line Dec. 1, 2014 (posting that day), exactly six months ago.

CNN has a story and video (no embed code given) by Ariane de Vogue here. The story says that this the “first time the Supreme Court has rules on social media and free speech”.
The slip opinion is here.
The opinion would seem to relate to my concerns about “implicit content”, with regard to my incident in 2005 as a substitute teacher.  The Court probably would have sided with me. Alito’s comments may be more relevant to what my situation could have become.  I will have to study it with more care later. 
In another matter, there are demonstrations near Facebook today on its “real names” policy, which the company says it is reconsidering. 

Update: Jun 6

Jeffrey Toobin on CNN discusses the Supreme Court's "inner libertarian" here.

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