Whether people like it or not, the internet is a public forum for communication and sharing, where information is exchanged and almost nothing is hidden from view. One Texas teenager is finding out the hard way that a single statement made over Facebook can have serious, life-changing repercussions.
19-year-old Justin Carter had just finished a game of League of Legends when he became involved in a conversation with someone on Facebook. His dad Jack explains to KHOU, “Someone had said something to the effect of 'Oh you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head,’ to which he replied '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."
The comment was seen by a Canadian woman, who then Googled Justin’s address and found that he lives a few hundred yards from an elementary school. The woman called police and Justin was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat. He has been sitting in jail awaiting a hearing since March.
Justin’s comment was sarcastic in nature, but due to the recent events at Sandy Hook, police say that every comment such as Justin’s is taken very seriously. They are not going to risk cutting corners and making exceptions when the lives of children may be on the line.
However, Justin’s parents are fighting back with vigor. Jack and his wife Jennifer have started an online petition to release Justin, which has amassed more than 7,500 signatures on the road to 15,000. “Release Justin Carter from jail,” the petition begins. “Too many teenagers are being arrested, jailed and having their lives forever altered because of anti-terrorism laws and investigations that impede their 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech.”
“If I can just help one person to understand that social media is not a playground,” Jack said, “that when you go out there into social media, when you use Facebook, when you use Twitter, when you go out there and make comments on news articles, and the things you are saying can and will be used against you.”