When does a threat over the internet become a threat? --Freedom of Speech What are the two sides of the arguments presented in the Elonis v United States court case ? I need to write 2-3 pages on...

When does a threat over the internet become a threat? --Freedom of Speech

What are the two sides of the arguments presented in the Elonis v United States court case ? I need to write 2-3 pages on one side of the argument and 2-3 pages on the other side of the arguments. Therefore can someone guide me on how to set my thesis statement and the arguments? Please I would appreciate it.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4308060285736836867&q=Elonis+v.+United+States&hl=en&as_sdt=2006

(this link might help answer my question, but i need clarification on what the arguments are for each side)

Asked on by lifegolden

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Your thesis statement for this paper will depend on what, exactly, your prompt says.  If you are just asked to outline the arguments for both sides of the case, your thesis statement will be a simple statement of the major difference between the two sides.  If you are asked to, for example, explain which argument you find more compelling, your thesis statement will need to say which side you are taking and why.  In this answer, I will provide a basic summary of each side’s argument in this case.

The major difference between the two sides’ arguments in Elonis v United States has to do with the definition of a true threat.  Under the First Amendment, people have the right to free speech.  However, that right does not extend to threats.  The question, then, is whether Elonis’s words constituted threats for which he could be punished or regular speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

In a previous case, the Court had given some guidance on this issue.  It had said that banned speech includes

…statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.

While this formula is somewhat helpful, it does not tell us how to determine when a speaker “means to communicate” something or when they have “an intent” to commit an illegal act.

On one side of the case, the government argued that it should have broad powers to prosecute people for threatening speech.  The government took the position that speech (in this case, Facebook postings) is a threat if a reasonable person would perceive it to be a threat.  In other words, we can say that a person “means to communicate” a threat if a reasonable person would think that their words were threatening.  In this view, the government should not have to prove what the person who spoke (or posted) the words really meant.  All it would have to prove is that a reasonable person would feel threatened by those words.

Elonis’s lawyers took a much narrower view of what constitutes a threat.  To them, a person only “means to communicate” a threat if they actually intend to threaten someone else.  From this point of view, all that matters is the state of mind of the person who speaks (or posts) the words.  It does not matter how other people would perceive the words.  Instead, the person could only be prosecuted if they actually intended to threaten someone and they actually meant to harm that person.

For more detail on the arguments in this case, please follow the link below.

Sources:

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