Feeds

Judge dismisses charges against accused Twitter stalker

Offensive tweets protected by US Constitution

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A federal judge has dismissed a criminal case against a man charged with stalking a religious leader on Twitter on the grounds that the more than 8,000 messages he posted, some predicting her violent death, were protected by the US constitution.

Thursday's ruling by US District Judge Roger W. Titus of Maryland was among the first to scrutinize a 2006 amendment to a federal anti-stalking law that extended it to the internet and other online forums. The decision dismissed criminal charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who used multiple Twitter accounts to sharply criticize a religious figure identified only by the initials A.Z.

“Although in bad taste, Mr. Cassidy’s Tweets and Blog posts about A.Z. challenge her character and qualifications as a religious leader,” Titus wrote in the 27-page ruling (PDF). “And, while Mr. Cassidy’s speech may have inflicted substantial emotional distress, the Government’s Indictment here is directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable Internet speech addressing religious matters.”

The New York Times identified the target of the tweets as Buddhist religious leader Alyce Zeoli. An attorney for Zeoli told the paper her client was “appalled and frightened by the judge’s ruling.”

Attorneys for The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, hailed the decision as a victory for free speech online.

“We are grateful that the court recognized the critical First Amendment issues at stake in this case,” Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury, said in a statement. “Law enforcement may have disagreed with the tone and content of Mr. Cassidy's speech, but the police hauling a Twitter user to jail for offending a public figure was the greater harm.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, writing on The Volokh Conspiracy blog, also praised the decision as “a substantial victory for free speech.” ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.