Teen twitters desire that Obama be offed and The Secret service investigates

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    Sep 11, 2012 8:10 AM GMT
    http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120907/NEWS01/309070069/Secret-Service-investigates-Ohio-teen-s-tweet-about-Obama/?

    Secret Service investigates Ohio teen's tweet about Obama
    8:45 AM, Sep. 8, 2012
    Written by
    John Faherty
    By Shauna Steigerwald

    Here’s how to get in trouble in 140 characters or fewer.

    Alyssa Douglas, a high school girl from the Clarksville area, about 40 miles north and east of Cincinnati, appears to have sent out a tweet Thursday night, hours before President Barack Obama’s convention speech, saying: “Someone needs to assassinate Obama ... like ASAP.”

    The Secret Service is investigating the posting on Twitter as a potential threat and will report its findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.

    Clinton-Massie School District officials had a meeting with Douglas and her parents Friday morning.

    Perhaps it was a real threat. If that was the case, the legal consequences would likely be dire.

    Or perhaps it was simply the unconsidered words of a teenager with easy access to social media. If that was the case, the consequences may still be significant.

    Douglas’ name spread across the Internet, as bloggers and tweeters discussed broad issues like free speech and hate and race and political extremism.

    By 4 p.m. Friday, the name “Alyssa Douglas” combined with “assassination” resulted in 2,010 Google hits.

    The Secret Service took the threat seriously. Mark Porter, special agent in charge at the Cincinnati Field Office, said the agency investigates all threats, including ones made on social media.

    Porter said the local office investigates social media threats with some regularity: “Maybe a couple a month,” Porter said.

    A statement like this, which calls for an assassination, was also passed up the chain to the Secret Service’s Intelligence Division.

    Porter would not speculate as to whether this would ultimately be considered a viable threat to the president. “We are fully investigating it,” Porter said. “What will the outcome be? We’ll just have to wait and see.”

    Threats against the president are illegal under a specific federal statute punishable by a fine, up to five years in prison or both.

    Kelley Johnson is a former federal public defender and is now a partner at the law firm of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur. He says the the line between free speech and illegal threats is sometimes clear.

    It is fine for a person to say they hate the president. It is not fine to say he should be assassinated.

    “The borderline is probably: ‘I wish the president would die,’” Johnson said. “That is probably the gray area.”

    Mike Sander, superintendent of the Clinton-Massie Local School District, met with Douglas and her parents early Friday.

    “The parents were not aware of it,” Sander said. He said he explained to Douglas that “there are limits to the rights of free speech.”

    Sanders told Douglas that something like this could hurt her in college applications or job searches or in the pursuit of scholarships.

    “But 16 year-olds don’t think that way,” Sanders said.

    Jeffrey Blevins, head of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Journalism and an expert in new media, said the incident highlights the need for more media education.

    “These things are so readily available to young people; they don’t fully understand the consequences of what they say. It’s not just a snide comment to a couple of their friends, where the friends can read that remark in context. Instead, that comment goes out to the entire Twitter universe, and you lose control of it.

    “That concept is very difficult for young people – and even some adults – to understand,” he added.

    Communication with kids is key to helping them avoid potentially costly new media mistakes, Blevins said.

    “One of the worst things you could probably do is to forbid it,” he said. “They’re going to access it anyway.”

    Instead, Blevins recommends that parents stay abreast of their children’s online activities, demanding password access to their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. And talk to them about being careful what they say, sharing stories such as this one.

    Clinton-Massie High School is carved out of a former cornfield. Tall stalks grow right at the edge of the parking lot. Friday afternoon, at the end of the school day, there was a pep rally for the evening’s big football game against Jonathan Alder High School.

    Sanders said he could not comment on whether Douglas had any prior discipline trouble at the school. He could not say if she was a good student. But he did offer this: “I can tell you that all of the teachers who know Ms. Douglas were very surprised.”
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    Sep 11, 2012 8:18 AM GMT
    My thoughts: Whadda dumb little bitch!

    In all seriousness i think about it two ways. Teens are dumb..and can be dumber when handed electronic media to communicate with. Adults say thoughtless and potentially destructive things impulsively (Check out almost any major news network talking head show...and anywhere on the internet.. including here) However children and teenagers say "Stupider" shit and most of the time the consequences are lost on them and exactly why they should have not said or done what they said or done. Sure.. how many times have we in private around friends.. especially during bushes reign said something similar.. not quite as abrasive. We probably as adults would not venture to put it in that way because we understand the consequences.. and we know that assassinations are a horrible thing and understand the finality of it. Children don't think long range. So in understanding that.. the girl needs a stern talking to about words and their meanings and laws. It's fine to hate your president. To wish him dead publicly? You have crossed a line and should suffer some smaller consequences and hopefully walk away a smarter person.

    I was appalled when i learned my 10 year old cousin got a smart phone last weekend..with social media capabilities. Bad idea.

    I hope she doesn't walk away with nothing adverse happening to her.. but on the other end.. she's a kid.
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    Sep 11, 2012 8:26 AM GMT
    Now she's going to be on a special government list forever. icon_lol.gif

    #GoodLuckWithThat
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    Sep 11, 2012 8:35 AM GMT
    And i will frame this post with a question: Was it free speech or did she do something wrong?
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    Sep 11, 2012 12:04 PM GMT
    It is free speech to some extent but the Secret Service has to investigate all threats to the president. Hopefully, she'll be let go with a warning.
  • Laurence

    Posts: 942

    Sep 11, 2012 12:23 PM GMT
    This is a hot topic in the UK, as lots of people are coming a cropper, and being prosecuted for posting racist/offensive views on Twitter and Facebook.

    My view is that we're coming down too hard on these idiots. But think that people should be aware that one of the dangers of all this accessibility, is that the things we put out there, stay out-there, and we should watch ourselves.

    It's not clever being offensive and inciting violence in any way.

    Lozx
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    Sep 11, 2012 2:32 PM GMT
    The problem for authorities is how to distinguish this sort of thing from genuine domestic or foreign terrorism. They really can't be sure, until they investigate it.

    Imagine if they ignore reports of a person talking about killing the President, and then this person, or someone associated with them, takes a shot at the POTUS. Then we'd be in the opposite scenario, asking why were "warning signs" ignored.

    I'm afraid in today's world those kinds of statements must at least be checked out, although I don't think we need to be sending armed SWAT teams for every case. And that's not what was done here, as far as I know, just an investigation team dispatched to get the true story.