Threats in 140 Characters

by Tony Flesor

The Colorado Supreme Court in its upcoming session will decide whether threats made over Twitter should be given special consideration for First Amendment protections.

The court on Tuesday agreed to review a juvenile delinquency case involving two high school students who got into an argument on Twitter over the Arapahoe High School shooting. Once the argument escalated to the point where one student tweeted a picture of a gun and alluded to acts of violence, the issue ended up in the courts with a question of whether the message was an actual threat.

The question the Supreme Court will consider is whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that the comments were protected by the First Amendment and how much the context of the message matters in determining whether it is a “true threat.” The answer of that question could guide other states on how to view electronic messages in a public forum.

The incident started after a student at Thomas Jefferson High School made a comment on Twitter in support of Arapahoe High School after the 2014 shooting there.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the September 11, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.