Articles Tagged with free speech

It is interesting to note that many people who say hateful things immediately run to the “freedom of speech” mantra when they are called out on it. This is the kind of dilemma that the law in Chicago has to contend with. In the worst-case scenarios, a successful case of defamation is brought to bear and there are significant consequences for the perpetrators. The internet has allowed for anonymous speech to prosper, and somehow people have forgotten their basic responsibility for common decency. On a daily basis, individuals and institutions are slandered and defamed on the internet in the knowledge that the fight back will be difficult or nearly impossible. The statute of limitations may protect those who count on the possibility that the victim will take an inordinately long to complain to the authorities.

Chicago Decides to Weigh in

For a long time, there was a misconception that you can only defame the rich and famous. Over time, the citizens of Chicago have recognized the fact that virtually everybody but the dead can be defamed and slandered. Moreover, the results of such actions can be quite serious, including the loss of employment and valued relationships. The court will normally deal with the plaintiff, defendant, and any other third parties. It is much harder to prove that you are affected by slander or defamation if you do not fall into the two principle parties in the cause of action. Indeed, there is a substantial body of case law to show that the courts are particularly careful to exclude unfounded causes that are based on some unproven pain and suffering.

Do we have a First Amendment Right to say anything we want to on social media; to make threats of violence against others, without fear of retribution? Social Media brawls, squabbles, and feuds on Facebook and Twitter, to name a few, are no joke. What often starts out as an innocent “back and forth” between sparring parties can grow ugly when there is a spillover from Facebook to reality; and sometimes that spillover can become deadly.

Facebook and Twitter accounts are now being monitored for possible criminal activities. Both federal, as well as state and local law enforcements have begun to use social media as one of their vehicles in the prevention and the solving of crimes. There have been court rulings that postings on social media sites have no expectation of privacy or confidentiality, therefore, anything you post in social media is accessible without the need for a warrant.

Even so, it has not been settled whether the First Amendment Right applies to threats of crimes of violence or murder on social media. Many social media users hide behind the anonymity of the profiles they create to behave in ways that would be totally unacceptable in the real world.

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