Facebook is the Google Glass of social media. (Does that even make sense?) This is the reason why Facebook will eventually fail. Facebook’s overall message is, “have fun, joke amongst your peers, but if you say anything questionable, we are always watching and will come down on you!”
Case in point: 18-year old Justin Carter of San Antonio, Texas. One day he was joking with friends, the next day he found himself facing a 10-year prison sentence:
Carter’s comments were part of a duel between dorks, and may have had something to do with a game with strong dork appeal called League of Legends. But the actual details and context of the online exchange are, in the eyes of Texas authorities, unimportant. Prosecutors say they don’t have the entire thread — instead, they have three comments on a cell-phone screenshot.
One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter’s retort was: “I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN [sic].”
Carter followed with “AND WATCH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT RAIN DOWN.”
So, someone in Canada saw the comment string out of context, freaked the fuck out, and called the Austin Police Department. Law enforcement ran Carter’s information and discovered that he lived within 100 yards of Wooldridge Elementary School. Carter was arrested with a third-degree terroristic threat — which carries a penalty of two to 10 years. U.S. marshals traced the kid to his day job at a drapery shop in San Antonio, where he was handcuffed and taken to jail and held on a half million dollar bond. Welcome to America!
Two things at play here:
1) Facebook is poised as a social network where you can banter with your friends in what seems to be a closed community, when in reality any off-kilter remark, joke, or photo can get you fired, expelled, or even worse, arrested.
2) Video game culture has made us so immune and emotionally detached to violence that shooting up a schoolyard doesn’t feel like something tragic — it’s merely something you do to get to the next level of League of Legends.
Carter’s lawyer argued that the Facebook thread was like a fight on the playground. Citing two key federal court rulings, his lawyer said, “There must be a clear and present danger, and there must be a true threat. And if you don’t have a true threat, then the First Amendment protects your speech. Plain and simple.”
The lesson learned: keep your friends close and your enemies away from your Facebook page!