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Cyberstalkers shielded by SCOTUS ruling on speech and online threats

Cyberstalkers shielded by SCOTUS ruling on speech and online threats

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg Creative | Bloomberg Creative Photos)

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court decided that a lower court’s logic was flawed when it convicted a Colorado man, Billy Raymond Counterman, for stalking. Counterman had sent hundreds of online messages—some of which the lower court ruled that a reasonable person would consider threatening—to a local musician, Coles Whalen, whom he’d never met.

The Supreme Court ruled that the objective standard that the Colorado lower court used to convict Counterman violated his First Amendment rights and, if upheld, could have a chilling effect on online speech.

“The State prosecuted Counterman in accordance with an objective standard and did not have to show any awareness on Counterman’s part of his statements’ threatening character,” the SCOTUS opinion said. “That is a violation of the First Amendment.”

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