Monday, June 01, 2015
The Supreme Court voided the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who posted violent remarks on his Facebook page. The court said federal law had set the bar too low for the charge to be upheld. The ruling was apparently narrow but it poses a question of how threatening messages can be before authorities can act. In this case, the man had stated he was expressing himself based on free speech principles. That was discounted by lower courts. Does this mean that anyone who says I'm simply saying what I feel can get off free? The court didn't answer that. Although it is unlikely PR practitioners will ever send violent messages to the public, it is possible they will be the recipients of screeds from unhappy consumers, investors and others. The practitioners need to be aware that one can express himself strongly and be within the law. They still need to hand over the messages to authorities and to track the situation, but they can't stop threatening words from coming.