There’s no disputing the fact that the past few years, and perhaps the last year in particular, have exposed deep divisions in our country. Many people have taken to social media to find others who see things from their perspective and to vent about politicians and others in the news.
Sometimes the online rhetoric becomes not just harsh, but threatening. As one communications professor says, “Sometimes when somebody has their phone or they’re sitting at a computer, they’re behind a screen so they feel more distant from the things they’re saying, and so they will say things that they wouldn’t normally say.” However, the target of such posts doesn’t know your intentions. It can be easy for them to feel threatened.
While some people might believe they have a First Amendment right to say anything they want online, they don’t. If you threaten harm to someone in a Tweet, on Facebook or anywhere else on social media, you could face felony charges of cyberstalking.
You could face federal charges
In addition to facing state charges, you could well attract the attention of the FBI and end up spending as much as five years in federal prison. Threatening someone on social media or through text or email is a federal crime.
“Hoax” threats are viewed especially unkindly because they can cause considerable fear to those threatened and use up law enforcement resources.
Whether it’s a person who broke up with you, a boss who fired you or a politician who holds very different views than you do, saying something to or about them online that can be viewed as threatening can land you in jail. It may not matter that you were just blowing off steam or that you got caught up in the moment, encouraged by others who had similar thoughts.
If you’re facing cyberstalking, harassment or other charges stemming from social media posts that led someone to fear for their safety, take them seriously. An experienced attorney can help you present a strong defense.