Slender Man “Follower” Strikes Again: Is the Creator of Slender Man to Blame?
Recently, there have been acts of violence committed by teenagers obsessed and worshipping a fictional character by the name of Slender Man. A few months ago, two teens in Wisconsin lured a friend into the woods, and stabbed her 19 times, incurring serious injury to the girl who was later found alive. The teens explained to the police that they had attempted to murder their friend as an “offering” to the fictional horror character known as Slender Man; since the incident, other teenage girls, while worshipping the fictional evil character, attempted acts of violence as a sacrifice in hopes of becoming his “proxy”. Slender Man was created around 2009 by Eric Knudsen as part of a horror fan forum where fictional characters were created and horror stories were written with a teenage audience in mind.
Teenage Follower Burns Down Home in Florida
In the first week of September, a teenager in Port Richey, Florida, set fire to her home with bleach and rum-soaked bed sheet and towel in the middle of the night while her mother and nine-year-old sibling were sleeping. A fire alarm within the residence went off at around 1:45 am and the mother and child were able to escape the flames. The mother went back for her teen when she realized that the teen was not with her or her other child, but the house was already engulfed. It was not until later that the mother received an apology text from her daughter who confessed and apologized for the incident. The teenager is currently charged with arson and attempted murder for her mother and sibling and the Court must determine if they will charge her as an adult or juvenile.
Can The Creator, Eric Knudsen, be Held Liable?
With so many violent events precipitated by young teens attempting to be admitted into Slender Man’s fold, many want to make the creator, Eric Knudsen, responsible for these incidents. However, the First Amendment, in this case, protects him from any civil liability or fault for acts by these teenagers.
The First Amendment Does Not Protect Speech Intended to Promote Violence
The First Amendment provides that the Constitution protects free speech and free press for everyone. However, the scope is focused and narrowed on the type of speech that is protected and the type of speech that is not. Specifically, any speech that incites violence will not be protected by the Constitution. The Supreme Court established through case law that for speech to be considered unprotected, the following must be found:
- The speaker or creator of the speech must intend that a violent action be performed or should occur;
- The speech must be substantially probable to produce the violent action that was intended by the speaker. The speaker should have a pretty good idea that his/her words will incite the action that he/she is speaking about; and
- That there is a contemporaneous relationship between the violent act intended and the utterance of the speech. It must be “imminent,” requiring that there be a cause and effect relationship between the speech and the following violent act.
Actions by these teenagers who are followers of Slender Man were never incited or suggested by the fictional character or Eric Knudsen, the creator, and ultimately, he would never be found to be liable civilly or criminally for the violent acts of a few confused teenagers.
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