Traverse Internet Law protects the reputations of professionals and businesses online, so we do our best to keep up with the latest developments about social media comments. This case was handed down this summer. In US v. Voneida the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury conviction for postings by the defendant on his MySpace page.
There is a federal law that prohibits the transmission in interstate commerce of any communications containing any threat to injure another person. In this case, the Defendant made generalized threats that the Virginia Tech students got what they deserved and stated his support for the shooter in various ways. The appellate court held that the statements, taken as a whole, could have constituted a serious intention to inflict bodily harm, and that a communication is a threat when in its context it would have a reasonable tendency to create apprehension that its originator will act according to its tenor. The court reasoned that the comments were reasonably perceived as threatening bodily injury.
At Traverse Internet Law, we continue to see greater efforts by prosecutors to clean up the web by pursuing criminal charges in the most egregious situations. This is one of them.