The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments: The recent tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut is also defining the limits of freedom of speech for us.
updated 1:20 PM EST, Tue December 18, 2012
(CNN) — In the crowded world of social media, with its virtual currency of likes and followers, some people will do anything for attention.
Post a meme on Facebook. Create a parody account on Twitter. And in extreme cases, spread something shocking or offensive.
In these tender days after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings, bad behavior on social media has some observers wondering: Should people be criminally liable for false or threatening information they post online? And could they be successfully prosecuted?
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance jump-started this discussion Sunday when he complained to reporters about people posting fake information on social media related to Friday’s fatal shootings of 26 people, 20 of them young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“There has been misinformation from people posing as the shooter in this case, posing using other IDs, mimicking this crime and crime scene and criminal activity that took place in this community. There’s been some things in somewhat of a threatening manner,” he said.
“These issues are crimes. They will be investigated, statewide and federally,” he added. “Prosecution will take place when people who are perpetrating this information are identified.”
Vance would not elaborate on which posts he was talking about. But a quick search of Twitter found a handful of new accounts seemingly created to piggyback on the notoriety of Adam Lanza, the alleged gunman. One was written as if from Lanza’s perspective and made profane boasts about the massacre. It had almost 900 followers Monday night before being taken down.
“It’s sick. It’s hateful. But I don’t know what they (police) can do about that,” said Lauri Stevens, a social media strategist who works as a consultant to law enforcement agencies.
Other tweets encouraged people to take violent action against members of the National Rifle Association, the gun-rights lobby. Read further.