August 1, 2013 -- Professor Eugene Volokh commented on the First Amendment and social media in a USA Today article.
Eugene Volokh, a free speech expert and professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, says the First Amendment protects most forms of speech, though not threats of violence or instances of libel, "whether on Twitter or in a newspaper article or on a Web page or skywriting."
Writing on Twitter is closer to standing on a soapbox in the public square than to calling someone on the phone, Volokh said. Repeated phone calls or personal letters can be considered harassment in some cases, he said, but the same generally does not apply to insults on Twitter because even if addressed to an individual they are available on a public forum for all to see.
"If someone says, 'I hope you get sick and die,' that is offensive but that is protected by the First Amendment," Volokh said, "unless the subtext is, 'I am the one who can make you sick and causes you to die.' The classic example is the thug who says, 'This is a really nice store, it would be a shame if anything happened to it.' Depending on context, that could be an expression of friendly concern or extortion."
To read the entire article, click here.