The internet allows for some level of anonymity and occasionally you will find posts that give detailed descriptions of how to perform an activity that is illegal. Examples may include how to covertly grow marijuana, or swindle money.

If I live in the US and make posts or provide answers to questions that explain how to perform an activity that is illegal in the US, can I be prosecuted?

This question is about sharing the "how to" information only, not actually performing any illegal activity.

  • I've often seen underground instructions posted in the open on non anonymous websites. E.g. motherboard.vice.com/read/… and better ones.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 11:05

2 Answers 2


In general this is protected by the first amendment. It is not in general a problem describing how one can one can do something illegal. But there are special cases to be careful with. You might want to do some research into the limits on free speech. It would be hard to provide an answer that fully covers all your different cases and you would need to be more specific about what illegal activity you want to describe. In describing how to do something illegal, you might accidentally share information that you are not allowed to share. When you post things online, this can be considered as publishing or exporting. Therefore certain export restrictions might apply. Also,

  • 2
    Hmm... But the question arises "Is it illegal to publish a manual on writing bomb-making manuals?". Can a criminal case be dismissed on the grounds of being "too meta"? Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 20:34
  • 1
    e.g. "Here would be a good time to mention to the reader that thoroughly mixing the ammonium nitrate would be a good idea, although sometimes for readability switching steps 2 and 6 may be helpful. If at all possible, put verbal nouns such as 'mixing' in a bold font. Printing your manual on cream-colored artisanal paper wouldn't hurt, either." Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 20:36
  • On point Four, intent of the speaker trumps the interpretation of the listener. This is only where the language in question is nuanced enough to be interpreted in one of two ways.
    – hszmv
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 20:09

You may want to show look at this case


In November 1997, a U.S. appeals court ruled 3–0 that Hit Man was not protected by the free speech/free press clause of the First Amendment and thus Paladin Enterprises could be held liable for a triple murder committed by one of its readers.[4][5]

On May 21, 1999, Paladin Press' insurance company agreed to settle the case out-of-court, against the wishes of Paladin Press themselves, who were confident that they would prevail in court; however, Paladin’s insurance company balked at going to court again, figuring expenses for a lengthy trial in federal court, plus the posting of a bond in case they lost and appealed, would have cost much more than the settlement.[6] Under this settlement, Paladin's insurance policy paid several million dollars to the families of those killed by the murderer, while also agreeing to destroy the remaining 700 copies of the book in their possession and surrendering any rights they had to publish and reproduce the work. Jon Ford, Paladin’s editorial director, called the settlement "economic censorship."[6]

While there are some uncertainties, the idea is that US appeals ruled 3-0 that describing how to murder people is not protected by first amendment.

That is the only case I've heard of this kind.

  1. It is still not a crime (it's a civil case)
  2. The book goes very far. It tells how to actually murder people
  3. No body goes to jail. However it's liable.

How im the earth this is relevant to the question is a bit beyond me. I am not a lawyer. Comments are welcome

My guesses now is

It's still legal in a sense that it's not criminal It's a tort

So if you write something about how to kill people, you should do so anonymously. Use steemit or trx crypto coins to collect money from what you do.

Just kidding... Even they will screw you out. But truly free freedom of speech belong on crypto currency and dark web I think.

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