As Silicon Valley's tech billionaires continue their crack down on "fake news", "hate speech" and dissenting conservative opinions of all forms (see this from last night: "Reddit Bans Three Alt-Right Forums As Users Blast 'Leftist Intolerance'"), one thing they don't seem to be that worried about is death threats to the President of the United States. In fact, just a quick search of Twitter reveals 1,000s of tweets calling for the assassination of Trump.
Someone should just take one for the team and assassinate Trump— Faz (@cxlanthe) February 3, 2017
Someone take one for the team n assassinate trump and pence pls you'll be remembered in history books as a hero— ???? (@mayashakti_) January 31, 2017
Can someone please just assassinate Trump he's already fucking everyone over who isn't already rich and I get nauseous reading about it— mom fren (@monachopsica) January 25, 2017
But while Twitter and Facebook may be distracted with censoring conservative opinions under the guise of a crack down on "fake news" and/or "hate speech", as Heather Lowrey of Louisville, Kentucky recently discovered, the U.S. Secret Service is taking social media threats against the President very seriously. Per the Courier-Journal:
The U.S. Secret Service field office in Louisville is still investigating the tweet sent by Heather Lowrey, according to special agent Richard Ferretti. It said, "If someone was cruel enough to assassinate MLK, maybe someone will be kind enough to assassinate Trump. #bekind #trump #lovetrumpshate," according to a screenshot provided to the Courier-Journal.
Lowrey could have violated United States Code Title 18, Section 871, "Threats Against President and Successors to the Presidency," which prohibits knowingly and willfully mailing or otherwise making "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States." The charge, a Class E felony, is punishable by at least one year in prison and a maximum of five years.
"Think twice before they send it out," he said. "We are definitely monitoring social media."
Ironically, Heather signed her tweet calling for the assassination of the President with #bekind and #lovetrumpshate.
Meanwhile, 24 year old Zachary Benson of Cleveland found himself in a jail cell shortly after his election night tweet storm. Per the New York Daily News:
A suburban Cleveland man who tweeted that his “life goal is to assassinate Trump” was charged with making threats on the president-elect, the feds said.
Zachary Benson, 24, also tweeted “F---ing fools. I hate you all” just as election returns assuring Donald Trump’s victory hit national airwaves, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday and obtained by WKYC-TV. Investigators said he was later apologetic about the tweets.
“Diplomacy. F---ing fools. I hate you all. I want to bomb every one of your voting booths and your general areas," Benson tweeted at 1:25 a.m. on Nov. 9, according to investigators.
“My life goal is to assassinate Trump,” he tweeted 17 minutes later, the complaint showed. “Don't care if I serve infinite sentences. That man deserves to decease existing.”
As Mashable points out, in the 12 days since Trump's inauguration, approximately 12,000 tweets have gone out calling for his assassination. And while the U.S. Secret Service can't possibly follow up on the threats of that many disaffected snowflakes, people who have a history of criminal activity and/or those who make several threats should probably expect a knock on their door.
Former U.S. Secret Service special agent Tim Franklin, who is now a criminology and criminal justice professor of counterterrorism and cybercrimes at Arizona State University, said in a phone call Tuesday that "it’s the people who have a true and genuine intent to do harm that the Secret Service is worried about."
That's why one-off posts and people with no record of threatening messages tend to get passed over. He said the Secret Service is looking out for trends and consistent behavior, like the person who repeats their intent to kill the president over time. If someone has made threats in the past they are more likely to get investigated when they post another "Kill Trump" post.
"They're not going to to beat down the door of everybody who makes a negative Twitter comment," Franklin said, which may be a relief to anyone who tweeted an off-hand and not entirely serious death wish for the new president.
But for users who use certain language and specific details about the president, his location and how the assassination will happen, the Secret Service will likely take notice.
And while Twitter and Facebook have explicit rules prohibiting "threats of violence", thousands of Trump threats seemingly slip through the crack every day.
On the platform side, Facebook and Twitter have policies in place to take down threatening posts. As Twitter said in an email statement, "The Twitter Rules prohibit threats of violence, and we will suspend accounts violating that policy." Facebook similarly said under their "credible threats policy" they remove posts showing intent to kill the president.
Yet thousands of posts that use the words "kill" and "assassinate" remain up — most of them targeting the president no less. The platforms can't seem to keep up with the influx of death threats and don't seem to be upholding their own policies as strictly as they would like.
But, we can certainly understand that Facebook and Twitter have a hard time keeping up with enforcing their own policies...censoring "fake news", a.k.a. anything that is overly critical of Hillary Clinton, really is a full-time job.