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.

Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer in Denver, said that the Supreme Court will apply existing case law on what constitutes an actionable “true threat” to a fairly new medium and the unique facts at issue when it reviews the case.

“The court examines not only the actual words, and images, exchanged, but the context in which they were exchanged, including the fact that the Tweets were public, not privately communicated, and that the juvenile, R.D., apparently did not know the identity of the individual he was alleged to be threatening,” Zansberg said.

Zansberg said that the context in which words are uttered frequently plays the pivotal role in determining whether speech loses its protection under the First Amendment.

Read the full article here. Subscription may be required.