Is it Still a Crime through Social Media?

Advice / FAQs / Felonies / Misdemeanors / 02.13.2017

With the ever-evolving rise of technology, living a life apart from social media has become less and less relevant. In fact, many relationships nowadays often begin through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, a matchmaking website, etc. Although the internet is used to make many positive advances in our society, it can also be a platform for abuse and violence. How do we know when online communication has gone too far? When does a cyber conversation become a cyber-crime. We are here to inform you on what classifies as a crime under the circumstances of a social media platform.

There are four categories of offenses that are commonly committed through social media, requiring a thorough initial assessment by prosecutors.

  1. Threats

The first category of offense comes in the form of a threat. Any type of communication that includes threats of violence to an individual or one’s personal property is considered a threat. Because of the First Amendment, it is often difficult to distinguish whether a statement falls under one’s right to the freedom of speech or if it is classified as a threat. Typically, labeling something as a threat depends on how an objective party perceives the message. If you are personally receiving threats via social media or through any online resource, please contact our lawyers to determine whether or not your case can be classified as a true threat.

  1. Targeting Specific Individuals 

If a statement published on social media specifically targets someone, either through harassment, stalking, coercive behavior, disclosing private images without consent, sexual offenses, or blackmail. For cases like these, prosecutors need to thoroughly examine the details to determine if there is a possible overlap of offenses. These targeted offenses might also be deemed as “hate crimes,” which we will dive into further below.

  1. Breach of Court Orders

Like if you were to break a court order for any other time of crime or prohibition, the same applies to social media. Any message posted online that breaches your current court order can lead to a legislative investigation and serious consequences. This particular offense can range from disclosing private jury information, alienating a restraining order, publishing material that could lead to identifying a plaintiff of a sexual offense, etc.

  1. Offensive, Indecent, and False 

Any form of communication through social media that can be labeled as malicious or grossly obscene can be further investigated and possibly labeled as a crime. For instance, a message that is sent with the sole intent and purpose of inconvenience and adding anxiety to one’s life is considerate grossly-offensive and could be sent to trial (ie: a derogatory hashtag, disclosing another’s personal information, virtual mobbing, harassment, etc).

The internet can be a very dangerous place, and due to the constant use of social media our private lives are no longer as private as they used to. It’s important to be discerning about what you choose to post for the public to see. You might be putting yourself at risk of a criminal offense. In addition, the repercussions and actions taken against online crimes might seem hazy and often more difficult to classify. Therefore, it is crucial for you to connect with a professional attorney about next steps. Our attorneys at Wentz Law Firm are highly knowledgeable about criminal law and what is categorized as a crime through social media. Please allow us advocate on your behalf!

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