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A category of unprotected speech "closely related to fighting words." At what point does speech in context become a "true threat" that is not protected by the First Amendment?

Middleton, pp. 48-51

Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969)

Virginia v. Black, 123 S. Ct. 153 (2003)

Can a website constitute a "true threat"?

Planned Parenthood of Columbia v. ACLA, No. 99-35405, (9th Cir. March 28, 2001)

In an opinion by Judge Kosinski, a three-judge panel relying on Claiborne Hardware found that the challenged statements on the ACLA website to be protected speech. The court said, in part: "ACLA did not communicate privately with its targets; the statements were made in public fora. And, while ACLA named its targets, it said nothing about planning to harm them; indeed, it did not even call on others to do so".

Planned Parenthood of Columbia v. ACLA, No. 99-35405, (9th Cir. October 3, 2001)

Upon the vote of a majority of nonrecused regular active judges of this
court, it is ordered that this case be reheard by the en banc court pursuant to Circuit
Rule 35-3. The three-judge panel opinion shall not be cited as precedent by or to
this court or any district court of the Ninth Circuit, except to the extent adopted by
the en banc court.

Planned Parenthood of Columbia v. ACLA 290 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. May 16, 2002)

Sitting en banc a majority of the 9th Circuit held "that 'threat of force' in FACE means what our settled threats law says a true threat is: a statement which, in the entire context and under all the circumstances, a reasonable person would foresee would be interpreted by those to whom the statement is communicated as a serious expression of intent to inflict bodily harm upon that person. So defined, a threatening statement that violates FACE is unprotected under the First Amendment.

Planned Parenthood of Columbia v. ACLA, No. 99-35405, (9th Cir. July 10, 2002)

Correction of Kosinski dissent from en banc decision

Also see:

Hate Speech


School of Journalism and Communication