Threats you make online can have real world consequences

| Jan 28, 2019 | Firm News |

The internet seems to have a way of bringing out the worst in certain people. People often use extreme or inflammatory rhetoric to grab attention and provoke responses from their viewers or readers. Internet communication often tends to be self-centered and exaggerated. This can lead to people saying things online that are quite different from how they communicate face-to-face.

Trolling is a common practice, which involves saying mean or ridiculous things just to get a reaction from someone else. Other people live to start online arguments with strangers, while still others use the internet to harass, stalk or abuse people they know in real life.

However, just because hyperbole and abusive language is part of the internet parlance does that mean that you will get a free pass for making threatening or violent statements toward another person online. Instead, depending on the circumstances, you could find yourself facing criminal charges if you live in Texas.

Threats and violent language can be a form of assault

Most people think of assaults as being a physical crime that involves injury to someone else. While it is certainly true that striking someone or otherwise physically harming them can result in assault charges, those aren’t the only circumstances that can lead to claims of assault.

The definition of assault in Texas is much broader. It can include menacing language or actions that make someone fear for their safety or the safety of someone else, particularly their spouse. In other words, if you write an angry rant threatening injury to someone you fight with online or perhaps even threaten their loved ones, that may well be assault.

If the other party believes your threat is credible, they may contact law enforcement. After an investigation, you could find yourself facing assault charges over the things you say on social media or popular websites.

Harassment charges are also a possibility in some cases

Even if you avoid making obvious, credible threats to another person, angry, abusive or violent language online can still have criminal consequences. You don’t have to threaten violence toward another. If prosecutors can show a pattern of abusive behavior, that could result in stalking charges.

Cyberstalking may involve tracking someone to multiple different platforms online or even creating fake profiles to continue to abuse someone after they block you. Don’t let the perceived anonymous nature of online commenting get you into legal trouble.

You can and possibly will get held accountable for the things you say online to others. Particularly if you frighten someone, there may be legal consequences for the things you say online. It is always best to avoid using exaggerated or violent rhetoric, especially if you are unsure of how the other person will interpret your language.