In 2016, Ohio man Anthony Novak was arrested for creating a Facebook page that impersonated and made fun of the local police department. That triggered a long-running series of legal challenges that will culminate in an appearance before the Supreme Court next month. There, the court will decide if Novak can sue the police department for violating his civil rights of free speech.
According to the attorneys and experts representing Novak, this case is a good litmus test for the future of speech online. They argue that if no consequences are levied against the police, it will encourage the government and law enforcement officials in the future to crack down on Facebook users for speaking out against them.
“Unless there are some consequences for police essentially taking offense to protected speech online and showing up at people’s houses and arresting them, all signs are that they will continue doing that,” Institute for Justice attorney Patrick Jaicomo told ABC News. “The legal theory here is just staggeringly broad and dangerous for all sorts of free speech.”
Novak’s case attracted so much notoriety that the famous satirical newspaper The Onion filed its first-ever brief with the Supreme Court in his defense. For the sake of online free speech in the future, here’s hoping they’re successful.
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