Free Speech

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
free speech, offensive, stalking, twitter

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Judge Says Bombarding Someone On Twitter With Offensive & Threatening Messages Is Free Speech

from the tough-cases dept

Earlier this year we wrote about a tough case, involving a guy who apparently spent nearly all of his waking hours bombarding a Buddhist leader he had a falling out with, with nasty, offensive and threatening messages on Twitter. He was charged with criminal stalking. This raised an awful lot of questions about the First Amendment, and a judge has now ruled that the tweets were, in fact, protected free speech. I tend to think the ruling here is correct, though I can see how this troubles people. As the judge noted, however:
Even though the Internet is the newest medium for anonymous, uncomfortable expression touching on political or religious matters, online speech is equally protected under the First Amendment as there is "no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied" to online speech.... Indeed "whatever the challenges of applying the Constitution to ever-advancing technology, basic principles of freedom of speech and press, like the First Amendment's command, do not vary when a new and different medium for communication appears."
Funny. I would think that this same reasoning would apply against domain seizures and SOPA, but it never seems to come up. That said, if the guy represents a real threat, I would think there are other laws that should cover that, outside of this broad "anti-stalking" law that was used. The fact that he caused "emotional distress" to the person his tweets were directed at is unfortunate and sad... but not illegal.

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  1. icon
    Kevin H (profile), 16 Dec 2011 @ 1:34pm

    It may not be pleasant, but.I prescribe this quote

    "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free"

    The American President, Andrew Shepherd

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