One of the ploys used by people who post hate-filled messages online is that it is free speech. There is the assumption that these postings are protected by the constitution.

Wrong.

A California state appeals court has ruled otherwise:

“… In a 2-1 ruling Monday, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said the violent language of the message – threatening to “rip out your … heart and feed it to you” and to “pound your head in with an ice pick” – conveyed a harmful intent that is not protected by the right of free speech.

The dissenting justice, Frances Rothschild, said no one who read all the messages posted on the Web site – in which youths tried to outdo the others in outrageous insults – would interpret any of them as a serious threat.”

link: Threatening posts not protected free speech

While this ruling many result in some frivolous litigation, it does give protection to those individuals who are threatened online. What is said online may have legal consequences.

Catherine Forsythe