Sunday, August 28, 2011

Man Accused of Stalking via Twitter Claims Free Speech

At NYT, "Case of 8,000 Menacing Posts Tests Limits of Twitter Speech" (via Memeorandum).
Even the Buddha of compassion might have been distressed to be on the receiving end of the diatribes that William Lawrence Cassidy is accused of posting on Twitter.

They certainly rattled Alyce Zeoli, a Buddhist leader based in Maryland. Using an ever-changing series of pseudonyms, the authorities say, Mr. Cassidy published thousands of Twitter posts about Ms. Zeoli. Some were weird horror-movie descriptions of what would befall her; others were more along these lines: “Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.”

Those relentless tweets landed Mr. Cassidy in jail on charges of online stalking and placed him at the center of an unusual federal case that asks the question: Is posting a public message on Twitter akin to speaking from an old-fashioned soapbox, or can it also be regarded as a means of direct personal communication, like a letter or phone call?

Twitter posts have fueled defamation suits in civil courts worldwide. But this is a criminal case, invoking a somewhat rarely used law on cyberstalking. And it straddles a new, thin line between online communications that can be upsetting — even frightening — and constitutional safeguards on freedom of expression.
Continue reading.

The stalking is not just on Twitter, but includes blog posts as well. The federal prosecutor handling the case likens the tweets, which are direct communications, and unsolicited, as "handwritten notes." These in turn may be found to constitute criminal harassment. Still, most folks see the prosecution as a stretch. See Doug Mataconis, "Is “Twitter Stalking” Free Speech?" Basically, the harassment has to be demonstrably threatening. In this case, clearly the lady's being stalked, and bad. But short of actually contact or evidence of some kind of violent plotting, it's better to stand up for speech. The solution is more speech. And as we've seen around here, progressives can't handle the truth, and when it's directed at them they blow past acceptable boundaries and engage in stalking behaviors that cross the line. Indeed, many a blogger has been forced offline from such trolling, and progressives count on the mob to destroy political enemies all while protected by the First Amendment. Just stand up to these idiots. They melt when faced with facts and logic, and they resort to lies, libel and destruction. ASFLs.


Mr. Mcgranor said...

I think the case could be made-- concidering the usual anti-social type on the internet.