Internet Trolling as Criminal Behavior

Curt Schilling, former Boston Red Sox great, and Ashley Judd, the actress, made news recently with how they responded to Twitter trolls.

Schilling had sent out a proud Tweet regarding his daughter’s decision about where she was going to attend college and play softball. That drew a series of responses from trolls that were by any measure offensive. They could also be interpreted as threatening.

Schilling wrote about his response on his own blog. He found out who the trolls were, identifying them by name and where they worked and went to school. The trolls faced consequences almost immediately; they lost jobs and were suspended from school. Schilling has also indicated that he is pursuing other legal action, including criminal prosecution.

Judd is well known as a fan of University of Kentucky basketball. During the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament, she was Tweeting about her beloved Wildcats (who, of course, later lost to our Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA tournament Final Four). Trolls responded by calling her a bitch, a whore, and threatening her with rape.

Judd responded much like Schilling did. She wrote about it publicly. She too is pursuing other legal action.

It ought to go without saying that no one should be sending out Tweets or texts or Facebook messages or Instagram messages or Snapchats or any other form of communication threatening women. Apparently, though, it does need to be said. If decency and morality aren’t enough to prevent you from doing it, however, consider that you could be charged and prosecuted criminally for doing it.

In Wisconsin, you could be charged with Unlawful Use of Computerized Communication Systems (Wis. Stat. 947.0125), with criminal Harassment (Wis. Stat. 947.013), or possibly with Disorderly Conduct (Wis. Stat. 947.01. Those are misdemeanors. Depending on how many threatening or harassing Tweets, or texts, you send, an aggressive prosecutor could charge you with Stalking (Wis. Stat. 940.32). That’s a felony. If you’re charged with misdemeanors, you’re facing the possibility of jail time and/or probation. If you’ve been convicted of other crimes recently, you could even face prison time if you’re charged as a Repeater. If you’re charged with a felony, you absolutely face the possibility of prison time.

Don’t do it. Don’t Tweet people threatening them or their children with rape. But if you make that mistake and do wind up getting charged with crimes, call us.