The case of Elonis v. United States had a significant impact on what is perceived as threatening on social media—an extremely important but tricky subject in the digital age. In this case, defendant Anthony Elonis was federally charged with threatening his ex-wife, co-workers, a kindergarten class, the local police, and an FBI agent on social media after his wife left him and he lost his job at an amusement park.
At his criminal trial, Elonis asked the court to dismiss the charges against him based on the argument that his Facebook comments were not “true threats,” and that, as an aspiring rapper, the posts were a form of artistic expression and a therapeutic release for him. The court refused to dismiss the case against Elonis, and the jury convicted him despite his defense.
Elonis appealed the conviction, arguing that “true threats” require a subjective intent to threaten. The appeals court affirmed Elonis' earlier conviction, reiterating that the law does not require proof of a subjective intent to convict someone of threatening someone else on social media.