As social media users and citizens, we all have a responsibility to protect society

Caroline Guthrie, Senior Writer

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman may have stopped a school shooting late last month, exemplifying how citizens can help prevent tragedy. Edelman received an Instagram direct message stating, “Dude, there is a kid in your comment section says he’s going to shoot up a school, I think you should alert the authority.”

A minor had commented on Edelman’s recent post, “I’m going to shoot my school up watch the news.”

After receiving the message, Edelman reached out to his assistant, who then alerted the police and met with detectives to discuss the comment. After a brief meeting, the police gathered information on the user via an emergency records request due to the extent of the threat. This included a detailed look into the user’s account information, such as the user’s email and IP address, which they then traced to Port Huron, Mich.

The detectives informed the police in his town, who then drove to the user’s house where they found a fourteen-year-old boy with two rifles owned by his mother. The boy admitted to posting the comment and was taken to juvenile detention after being charged with False Report of a Threat of Terrorism —punishable by up to four years in jail. These quick actions taken by the detectives and police show the valuable ability to stop a tragic event within hours.

“Thankfully, this kid said something,” Edelman said in an interview with The New York Times. “We’re going to send him something, a care package, just for his work. He’s the real hero.”

Some criticized the police’s ability to receive information on the Instagram user so quickly. This serves as an interesting parallel to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica who are currently receiving scrutiny for digging into people’s personal information. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica now both face a class-action lawsuit due to the misuse of personal data of more than 71 million people, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, testified before Congress on the matter April 10-11.

In the case of the potential school shooter, I believe it was right for the police to gain immediate knowledge in order to avert the crisis. Ultimately, we should all keep an eye on threatening comments made on social media and alert the authorities when appropriate to help keep our communities safe.

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