Is making online threats a crime?

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Internet Crimes |

Given how vast the internet is, it is normal that not everyone on it shares the same views and opinions. However, you might be tempted to respond aggressively toward arrogant or annoying individuals on social media. If you make an online threat, others may see it as serious, even if you did not mean it or were only acting impulsively.

Threatening someone behind a screen might make you feel emotionally removed from what you say. However, consider what would happen if you were to say those same words in person. Even if you do not intend to put your words into action, the object of your threats may feel terrorized. Threatening someone online can result in cyberstalking charges, a misdemeanor in South Carolina.

Using social media or other forms of electronic communication to “abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass or embarrass” another person falls under cyberstalking. If you are found guilty of cyberstalking another person, you may face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Think before you post

Whether a threat made online is a crime depends on the context. Your post may not be taken as a threat if you said it jokingly or sarcastically. However, if what you put is reasonably threatening to the ordinary person, you may be in legal trouble.

Furthermore, given the current climate, making hoax threats that incite fear could make you a target of the FBI. You may go to jail for making threats about violence, even if it was a joke.

Although making online threats may seem harmless, they can have serious consequences. Your words and how you deliver them carry weight and may cause the target to experience real fear, anxiety and depression. You may even face trouble with the law.

Consider stepping away from your device to collect your thoughts before responding defensively or violently online.


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