Social networking can get people in trouble

“Early Monday morning, UA student Steven Mortensen was arrested for threatening to go on a shooting rampage against his enemies at Akron on Facebook. Because he couldn’t get into a computer lab. And not long after the Northern Illinois incident. Smart.”

Early Monday morning, UA student Steven Mortensen was arrested for threatening to go on a shooting rampage against his enemies at Akron on Facebook. Because he couldn’t get into a computer lab. And not long after the Northern Illinois incident. Smart. Good timing with that one.

Earlier this month, a Ontario man was on trial for previously making comments on Facebook that he was going to kill a nurse of the Children’s Aid Society and suicide bomb the building.

Last month, a teen in Kansas was taken into police custody for making a comment on Facebook that he planned on killing more than a dozen people and telling a girl at school later that day that she would be the first one to go.

And those are only recent occurrences. There have been many more, and if you’d like, I’ll name another five off the top of my head. Just from Facebook. We’ll ignore the other social networking sites.

Are we starting to see a trend here, people? These may have been just thoughts and feelings with absolutely no intent to follow through, but how are school authorities and law enforcement supposed to make that distinction? There have been too many shootings, bombings and overall violence in the world for the appropriate authorities not to take action whenever another potential threat surfaces, especially when the words murder, shoot, bomb, kill, etc., are explicitly involved.

People have negative thoughts and feelings sometimes. Even when exaggerated to the level of, I feel so frustrated I could kill someone, it’s still natural. But there is a line here. There are some things you cannot say. I know some of you are thinking, First Amendment, blah blah blah, freedom of speech, blah blah blah, and I’m getting to you.

The defense lawyer for the Ontario man mentioned above has said that, People use Facebook today like the way people used to use diaries. They are expressing their personal thoughts or opinions, not an intention to act. He also said that to convict him, it was required to prove an intention to threaten the woman and agency.

Well yea, intent is a big part of it. I’ve got your intent right here: Facebook is a social networking site. Inherently, both the words social and networking involve putting yourself out there for the public. It means letting people see you and get to know you. Including what you do and say. Knowingly engaging in behaviors that involve being social and/or networking means that you intend to let people know what you do and say. As can easily be deduced, if you post things on Facebook, a social networking site, you intend to let people know about it.

From law enforcement’s and school authorities’ standpoint, the combination of knowing what you (allegedly) intend to do and the sensitivity resulting from such tragic incidences as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and others is just too much to take a chance with. And rightfully so. You really can’t be too careful with stuff like this.

There First Amendment grants freedom of speech, yes. However, freedom of speech is all about what you want to say and express, a personal proclamation of one’s own thoughts, feelings and beliefs-which is a great thing to have. But when it has been purposefully thrown into the realm of society for individual interpretation and the consequences that are sure to follow, and it involves the harming, maiming, killing, etc., of other human beings, it crosses the line. If it is publicly known that you intend to harm another person, then someone will publicly try to stop you. You already told everyone what you were going to do whether or not you privately intended not to, so everyone else will react in an appropriate manner.

Throw all these people in jail for at least a while. For publicly threatening the lives of other people, primarily those involved in state/governmental institutions, they deserve to be made an example of. Maybe then other people will think twice about posting their personal feelings they intend to keep private on websites that the world can see.