Facebook threats are a fairly common and increasing area of social media and life intersecting, but the area in which such transmissions fall legally is a continually re-examined legal arena … less so in Florida, now.
Social media law and the legal implications of incidents like Facebook threats have, somewhat worryingly, fallen into an area of less clear or definitive violation of law. And before our eyes we’ve observed the shaping of social media law and how it works alongside the existing legal system as the criminal justice establishment (that trends older) struggles to interpret the social media world (which skews younger) in accordance with to the moment precedent.
The Miami Herald notes that an appeals court ruled on the issue of Facebook threats Monday this week, clarifying the legal classification of threats for which the social network was the the medium of transmission:
The 1st District Court of Appeal decided in a criminal case that a Facebook post could be considered a “sending” for the purposes of the “sending written threats to kill or do bodily harm” law, a second-degree felony.
A Facebook felony? Sounds kind of worrisome, but this particular ruling seems to do little save officially make it so behavior carried out through traditional means (such as on the phone or the set of Jerry Springer) is equally illegal on the social network.
This particular ruling regarding Facebook threats pertained to a 2011 case during which a man stood accused of making threats to a female relative and her partner via the social network.
While it was debated as to whether the posts violated the same laws verbally relating them would have, it was ultimately ruled that “there is no logical reason to post comments other than to communicate them to other Facebook users, and that the defendant had been free “to put his thoughts into writing for his own personal contemplation, he could simply have recorded them in a private journal, diary, or any other medium that is not accessible by other people.”