Protecting the First Amendment

Posted by Danielle Lindsay Feoranzo.

In the United States, freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment. It is a prized right and the courts have protected this right to the fullest extent. As Americans in a democratic country, we have the power to speak our minds to ensure we can voice our political opinions and criticize government actions or policies. Thus, as citizens we hold great authority for which could either positively and or negatively influence our country’s future.

In today’s world, social media has made a strong precedence in our community and the functionality of our world. This includes Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, and the heavy-weight, Facebook. These outlets of social media can be used by famous celebrities to endorse a product, or politicians to promote themselves and their campaigns. Social media is an outlet that can connect one with the world, therefore in essence is a huge stage to express oneself and one’s opinions.

It was on June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania man who posted many violent messages on Facebook (the Court raising implications of freedom of speech). However, prior to the Supreme Court hearing the case, the man was convicted under a federal threat statue and sentenced to jail time of forty-four months. The man appealed this judgment, stating the government should have been required to prove he actually intended to make a threat. The Pennsylvania man argued he was exercising his freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. He also mentioned he was inspired by the artist Eminem and his lyrics for which is recited and had no intention to threaten anyone.

The Supreme Court ruled in his favor and stated, “It was not enough to convict the man based solely on the idea that a reasonable person would regard the communications as a threat” (Ariane de Vogue, CNN). What is important to take notice is the “reasonable person” standard was rejected by the Court. This is because the government needed to prove the defendant’s intent.

To conclude, the Pennsylvania man expressed himself on Facebook, whether it was crude to some or not, it did not uphold in court as a threat. This case is another example of how the Court will go out of its way to protect speech under the First Amendment.

Danielle is a business administration major with a concentration in management information and technology at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.