In the wake of mass killings at a midnight screening of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado last month, police have taken to a new kind of crime prevention – social media surveillance.
A killer’s sinister on-line warning
It would be very difficult and probably also illegal to assume that anyone who tweets a threat of criminal activity is going to carry out their menacing declarations but with strong on-line evidence that the red-haired ‘Joker’ killer, James Holmes was planning something terribly sinister, social networking sites are and will be subpoenaed in the future. Besides reports of his strange and ‘reclusive’ behaviour, police investigations uncovered a telling status update on the adult dating site, ‘Adult Friend Finder’. Under his pofile, Holmes asks prospective lovers, ‘Will you visit me in prison?’ An abnormal question to post on a social network, despite the illicit nature of the site. Of course this question, posted on-line before the bloody rampage, would not have been even nearly sufficient for a precautionary arrest or questioning but considering the arsenal of weaponry that Holmes was slowly adding to during this time, the FBI could well include posts like this in their background checks when filtering law-abiding gun purchasers from those with criminal intent. Had this been done in this case (assuming all six guns acquired by Holmes were legal), the thirteen lives taken in the shooting could have been saved.
Mike Tyson theatre showing comes under Twitter threat
Just last week, The New York Police Department requested that Twitter disclose the personal information of a user who posted comments about a shoot-out that was expected to take place at a Broadway theatre during a one-man show starring former heavyweight boxer, Mike Tyson. The tweets seem to warn that the audience members of the show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” were the ones in danger, reading – “…people are gonna die just like in aurora.” The following was found from the same user account – “I’m in Florida rite now, but it’ll happen i promise I’m just finishing up my hit list.” After Twitter refused to make any disclosures in the Batman shooting case, the NYPD gave them no choice in the matter this time around and subpoenaed them to get information about the theatre shooting tweeter.
Although the law forced them to assist the police in this case, according to Firstpost.com, a representative from Twitter did write the NYPD an email stating, “We appreciate the timeliness and sensitivity of this matter, and have reviewed the reported Twitter account. While we do invoke emergency disclosure procedures when it appears that a threat is present, specific and immediate, this does not appear to fall under those strict parameter as per our policies.”
If a tweet of this nature fails to set off any particular alarm bells with Twitter it’s scary to think what does and how many lives could be saved with a little fore-warning. Just as terrifying is the ease with which internet users post their unlawful intentions – whether real or mere hoax. The NYPD increased security at the Broadway show, just in case.