Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a man who posted a threatening message online in 2008, calling for the assassination of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. In a divided ruling, which overturned the man’s 2009 conviction, the written opinion declared that the threat would not have been taken seriously by a reasonable person.
The L.A. Times reports the man posted Obama “will have a 50 cal in the head soon” and called for someone to “shoot the [racist slur]” on a Yahoo financial site.
The court opinion stated:
“When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words’ utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them.”
When it comes to online threats, what sort of speech do you think deserves protection?