The Supreme Court's decision to overturn the conviction of a man who posted all kinds of disturbing threats online is being hailed as a big First Amendment win. In an editorial, for instance, the New York Times calls it "an important affirmation of the need to protect speech, and to require the government to meet a stricter legal standard when trying to punish people for their words alone." Maybe so, writes Brian Fung at the Washington Post, but the ruling also "is a major setback for those trying to make the Web a less hateful and hostile place, particularly for women."
Under the new rules, authorities have to prove that someone posting online threats actually means them in order to gain a conviction. In this case, the fact that Anthony Elonis' wife felt genuinely threatened isn't enough. The ruling is going to make it more difficult for tech companies to write and enforce harassment policies, along with adding even more stress to threat recipients. "To require that victims be convinced of a genuine threat and to prove they're not imagining it is an impossible ask," writes Fung. "It's basically a request for mind-reading, for threat recipients to get inside their terrorizers' heads." Click for his full column. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)