Newsflash: Tweeting Terror Threats is a Terrible Idea
On Sunday night, this puzzling exchange happened on American Airlines’ Twitter account:
The tweeter in question is a 14-year-old girl named Sarah. She has since told the press that the tweet was a joke — because apparently Sarah has no idea what a joke is.
After American Airlines tweeted that they were sending her information to the FBI, she tweeted about how scared she was, and that she was “just a fangirl pls I don’t have evil thoughts and plus I’m a white girl.” It really does seem like a ploy for attention though, given that she also tweeted to the world her number of followers and pretty much her entire experience with the fallout. She has since been arrested, and American Airlines released a statement saying, “At American, the safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority. We take security matters very seriously and work with authorities on a case by case basis.”
Well, clearly Sarah isn’t very bright. But most people should know that tweeting terror threats at a major airline is an incredibly bad idea, right?
In actuality, since this story broke, about a dozen different people have sent similar threats to American Airlines, as well as a few have to Southwest Airlines, a completely unrelated company. And there were other inflammatory tweets sent out in support of “Plus I’m a white girl” Sarah. I can’t get over this, really. Why in the world would anyone ever think it’s a good idea to say these things. I cannot imagine that young people who are savvy enough to use Twitter don’t understand how IP addresses work. It’s really pretty easy for law enforcement to find pretty much anyone.
And this Sarah girl is by no means the only person her age to say something exceptionally stupid on the internet. There have been countless similar incidents. For example, last February, a teen from Texas got into an argument with a friend on Facebook over a video game. He ended up commenting something to the effect of “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. LOL. JK.” That young man, Justin Carter, ended up getting arrested for the comment, which was charged as a terror threat.
And in one of my favorite cases, a few weeks ago, a particularly oblivious teenager lost her parents about $80,000. Her father, Patrick Snay, won a lawsuit against his former employer, a private school in Miami, in which he alleged age discrimination. Part of the settlement included a confidentiality clause — Snay and his wife weren’t supposed to share the information with anyone other than their attorneys and other pertinent professional advisers. But just a few days later, their daughter posted this message to her 1,200 Facebook friends: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” And of course, that breaks the confidentiality agreement, and cost the family the $80,000 settlement.
There are plenty of incidents of young people getting in trouble because of the incredibly stupid stuff they put up on social media. I don’t know why that is. Maybe we don’t treat social media platforms as the fully public forum that they are. Sometimes when you’re sitting on your couch in pajamas and getting into a debate with your friends on Facebook about something stupid, it’s easy to forget that everyone can see it. Or maybe teenagers have been very stupid for years, and it’s only now that they have a microphone for that stupidity, and thus we get things like Twitter threats to airlines. Either way, let this serve as a reminder to watch what you say on the Internet. It may come back to haunt you, big time.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [Sandy via Flickr]