Can Your Comments Online Get You Arrested? Yes, Ask Justin Carter

Jul 17, 2013

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Can your comments online get you arrested?  Yes, especially when they are inflammatory or threatening. Consider the case of 18-year-old Justin Carter of Texas.

Justin, a League of Legends fanatic, was playing last February against an opponent online when things got heated. Hurtful words were fired back and forth. His opponent called him "messed up in the head."

Justin got upset and aggressively retorted with this comment on Facebook: "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."

The biggest challenge with Justin's comments is that they occurred just eight weeks after the fatal school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 children and six adults were murdered. Obviously, the comment was very inappropriate and distasteful.

According to Justin and his father, he was "kidding." But the tone of a comment online can be interpreted many ways. A woman in Canada saw Justin's Facebook post and notified authorities who interpreted it as a real concern to investigate.

The police visited Justin's home in Texas. No weapons were found -- but he was arrested and he's been in jail since February. The jury in Texas charged Justin with "making a terroristic threat," which is a third-degree felony. A bond was issued to Justin for $500,000. Justin's family was not able to pay the bail.

As he has waited in jail for trial, Justin has slumped into a depression. He is relentlessly attacked by other prisoners. All of these things stem back to one outrage, one fiery post by a teenager that seemed harmless to him at the time, but has since changed the course of his life.

I submit that the rising generation that thrives on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., has not learned how to behave online. Posts on social networks can be seen across the world; nothing is private.

Remind kids (and yourself) to be careful what you write online. It may just cost you (dearly). Parents need to teach children about these issues.  Justin Carter's life has been changed forever.

What can a parent do?

There are child protection software tools available today, such as Net Nanny Social, that help parents monitor a child's comments, pictures and friends on social networks.  If a parent does not take action, things can sometimes go awry.

Note: I work for Net Nanny; opinions express here are my own.

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