Proposing a Threat On Social Media - Big Deal or Not?

It’s 2021 and social media has been more influential than ever. Social media can be defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Many will argue that it is their freedom of speech and they can post, comment, or share anything they’d like. While that may be true, it is vitally important to be weary of what you post online. Inappropriate content can not only cause bad blood between your family,  friends, or peers but it may also get you in trouble with law enforcement. 

Social Media Crime in Pennsylvania

In March 2019, a man from Washington County, PA was convicted of making terroristic threats on Facebook. The choice between felony or misdemeanor charges were left up to a  jury to decide, and they chose the more serious charge: a felony. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison. Moral of the story? Any time you choose to make a threat on social media, you are potentially setting yourself up for a felony if convicted.

Defenses to Social Media Crime

The best way to avoid a conviction because of a social media post is to avoid making any threats online, even if they are meant as a joke or hoax. Some threats can be taken more seriously than others, such as threats made toward schools, regardless of the severity of the threat. Social media posts that are threats pertaining to a school setting will be taken seriously by authorities.

The context of some threats may be considered in a court of law. If the threat is vague and not specifically directed, the comment may not be a crime. In the context of social media threats, the speaker’s intent is very important.

Social Media Crime Examples 

Threats are not the only crime that one can occur through social media platforms. Here are some of the most common crimes that are committed on, or resulting from, social media: 

  • Stalking
  • Cyberbullying
  • Hacking
  • Fraud
  • Illegal purchases
  • Leaking videos of criminal activity
  • Vacation robberies 

Contact Us

While your right to free speech is protected by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution, this right is not absolute. Proposing threats, bullying, and harassing, both online and in-person, are serious crimes that can face big penalties. If you or someone you know are facing social media related crimes, contact our team of attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.


Sources:

https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/cyberbullying-laws-pennsylvania.htm

https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2020/08/31/defense-attorney-calls-pa-facebook-ruling-a-slippery-slope-for-social-media-posts/?slreturn=20210124131901

https://www.spatzlawfirm.com/blog/2018/08/is-making-a-threat-on-social-a-crime/