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I'm on an online chat system for a game and one player said "Mr X needs to be stabbed in the throat" (actual name changed). The statement was accompanied by an image designed to give maximum offense. It was clear they meant in real life, not in the game. The player who said this has a history of aggressive and violent online speech that goes beyond what happens in the game.

The player who said this, "Mr X", and I are all in Australia. Is this illegal in Australia?

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It depends on the context

This would be illegal if the statement gives rise in Mr. X of a reasonable fear of imminent violence or if Mr. X were part of a protected class and the threat was made specifically because of that membership.

In the context of an online game, it is likely that the statement is neither meant nor taken as a genuine incitement to violence.

In light of the OP’s edit.

The legal question is “Does the statement cause a reasonable apprehension of imminent violence in Mr. X?”. Not “Is it nasty or mean or hateful or lurid or graphic or insulting or offensive (except in the context of hate speech)?”.

That is, would a reasonable person in Mr. X’s position feel that people had the intention and capability to act on the incitement (again, excluding hate speech)?

If yes, it’s assault. If no, it’s just rude.

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  • I've added some background to the question. I felt very uncomfortable seeing it even though I wasn't the target.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 19, 2019 at 23:09

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