Free Speech

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
free speech, offensive, stalking, twitter


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
    Nathan F (profile), 16 Dec 2011 @ 1:17pm


    Thats the thing though. In order for the religious leader to even know about the tweets she has to 'follow' his tweet.. she has to be proactive and go out and find the material. With a threatening letter, phone call or e-mail it comes to her without her violation. The judge pointed that out in the ruling.

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