Facebook Terrorism and the Growing Public Space

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Nineteen-year-old Justin Carter is in prison with a $500,000 bail awaiting trial for a third-degree felony charge of terroristic threats. For a facebook status update. Following a particularly heated session of online gaming, the young Carter thought it a good idea to post the following comment to his wall:

“I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them.”

Poor taste? Yes. Idiotic? Of course. Mentally deranged? Certainly. A legitimate “terrorist” threat? Probably not. I think the “eat the beating heart” bit should have been enough to tip authorities off that this was not a real threat, but rather the bitter ramblings of a social malcontent. But what were authorities to do? In the wake of Sandy Hook and Boston, the civil government feels they need to take any comment like this seriously.

And don’t get me wrong. The kid obviously needs some help. A lot of help. But, according to his father (who has not heretofore done a terribly great job in his role if this is any indication), Carter is getting the crap beaten out of him in prison. And there’s no way to get him out before the trial because, like most of us, Carter’s father doesn’t have $500,000 laying around.

Whether it was an ill-advised comeback, an incriminating photo, or just an inordinate amount of wasted time, most of us have something to regret about our dealings with facebook. But the Carter case brings up some very sticky legal issues. Is facebook a “public space”? Should the things we post to facebook be allowed to have legal import? Is the internet a “public space” for legal purposes?

Read the rest at Last Resistance

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