Anthony Elonis’ wife, Tara, left him in 2010 and took their two young children. Shortly thereafter, Elonis began posting violent statements on his Facebook page directed at his wife. One post read “There’s one way to love you, but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die…” Tara received a protective order from the court but Elonis continued his posts and was arrested and prosecuted for his online posts. At trial, he claimed the posts were in reality rap lyrics from Eminem and were a therapeutic way of dealing with his problems. He argued that he did not mean to seriously threaten Tara.
Elonis was convicted of violating state law in his posts and his conviction was upheld on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case back down to the trial court- stating that it was not enough to show that a reasonable person might view the posts as threats, the state had to show that Elonis intended the posts to be threats.
Do you agree? When should a statement made on social media be considered a true threat – if the poster means it to be a threat or if the viewer of the post believes it is a threat?