Supreme Court To Decide Whether Rap Lyric Threats Are Free Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Elonis v. United States, in a case that could result in more attention paid to language in online postings. After a series of angry posts on Facebook in the form of explicit rap lyrics “about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent,” Anthony Elonis “was convicted of making threats of violence and sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. A federal appeals court rejected his claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment. The Obama administration says requiring proof that a speaker intended to be threatening would undermine the law’s protective purpose. In its brief to the court, the Justice Department argued that no matter what someone believes about his comments, it does not lessen the fear and anxiety they might cause for other people.

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