Friday, June 28, 2013

Yet Another Teen Making Stupid Jokes On Social Media Now Faces Years In Jail

from the not-this-again dept

It's getting ridiculous just how frequently this sort of thing is happening. We had the so-called Twitter joke trial in the UK, in which Paul Chambers was arrested and tried for making a joke on Twitter about airport closures in which he (very obviously jokingly) "threatened" to blow the airport "sky high" if it wasn't reopened by the time he had to fly. We had the story of Joe Lipari, who was arrested for paraphrasing Fight Club on Facebook in expressing his annoyance with employees at his local Apple store. More recently, we wrote about high school kid Cam D'Ambrosio who was arrested and held without bail for making "terroristic threats," where those "threats" turned out to be some immature boastful rap lyrics that, when actually put in context, didn't actually suggest any threats at all.

The latest one involves Justin Carter, a teenager in Texas who made a joke on Facebook where he and some other kids were hassling each other over the video game League of Legends. One of the kids said something to Justin along the lines of, "Oh you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head." In response, Justin said:
'Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,’ and the next two lines were lol and jk.
In context, there is nothing surprising or odd at all about this conversation. It's how teenaged boys communicate. They get on each other and mock each other and the response was actually pretty reasonable. One kid called him insane, and he responded by effectively mocking the claim that he was insane. And then immediately followed it up with lol and jk to cement the fact that he was kidding -- which should have been obvious to everyone anyway, even without the caveats.

But... apparently it was not obvious to the police, or to some very confused woman in Canada who called the police.
Justin Carter was arrested the next month and has been jailed since March 27. He’s charged with making a terroristic threat and is facing eight years in prison, according to his dad.
It turns out that Justin's mother actually posted a comment on our last story about Cam D'Ambrosio, which I didn't see until just now, explaining much of his story as well, and linking to a petition trying to get her son released from prison.

Once again, this situation is insane. We've reached a point where media hype and moral panics are leading law enforcement to seriously overreact to anything they think is a threat. We have no problem at all with law enforcement checking in on situations like this, but they should quickly realize what it is and move on. To arrest someone for such a joking comment on Facebook, and then to keep him in jail and legitimately claim that it was some sort of "terroristic threat," is shameful and suggests that law enforcement is more interested in building up their "stats" than actually making sure that justice is served and the public is safe.

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