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Online Death Threats and Free Speech

            "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." - James 3:6 KJV.
             Suppose one was to utter the words: "I want to die." These four seemingly dangerous words could simply be spoken at the end of a long day, signifying fatigue. However, if I was to change who the statement is directed to, it immediately turns from benign to threatening. Although the ambiguity of communication will often exist, there are certain circumstances in which the receptor is able to understand a clear cut message sent by the annunciator. Such was the case between Tara Elonis and her husband Anthony. You see, about a week after Tara Elonis persuaded a judge to issue a protective order against her estranged husband, or rather, her soon-to-be ex who had this to say: "Fold up your PFA (protection-from-abuse order) and put it in your pocket/ Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?"(Blazelon) Interestingly enough, Anthony Elonis didn't deliver the message in person, by phone or in a note. Instead, he posted it on his Facebook page, for all to see, in a prose style reminiscent of the violent, misogynistic lyrics of rap artists he claims to admire. .
             Affirming that the case presented an opportunity for the court to reconsider its traditional jurisprudence about how to measure the seriousness of a threat in the modern age, Elonis' attorney, John P. Elwood, stated the following in his petition: "Communication online by email and social media has become commonplace, even as the norms and expectations for such communication remain unsettled. The inherently impersonal nature of online communication makes such messages inherently susceptible to misinterpretation." (Washington Post).
             I urge you, dear reader, to consider the implications of Elonis' statements.

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