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FBI's Facebook Monitoring Leads To Arrest In England 329

An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that armed police were called to a UK school earlier today after being advised of a potential threat by the FBI. The school stated that the FBI 'raised the alarm after Internet scanning software picked up a suspicious combination of words,' strongly implying that they are carrying out routine, automated surveillance of social networking sites. While in this case it does appear that there may have been a genuine threat, the story nonetheless raises significant privacy concerns."
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FBI's Facebook Monitoring Leads To Arrest In England

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  • Surveillance laws (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:41PM (#32584414)
    Sounds like the "special relationship" means that passing laws against excessive surveillance by our own police will never achieve anything - they can just have the FBI spy on us instead. I wonder if they conduct questionable surveillance of American citizens in return?
    • I wonder if they conduct questionable surveillance of American citizens in return?

      They don't need to - we have the FBI for that ;-)

    • That's an interesting theory. You'd suggest that since there's no obligation to the citizens of another country, that some other government would spy on you, and then your government would spy on their citizens, and then just trade information back and forth "as required, for national security matters"?

      I wonder they'd have a cool acronym for the program.

  • Good grief (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:41PM (#32584416) Journal

    The school uses MS Comic Sans font on the sign to their entrance. They deserve all they get!

    (Note to the FBI: This is just a humourous crack. I'm not threatening to blow the school up, okay?)

  • Privacy? Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kid_wonder ( 21480 ) <public@ksc o t t> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:42PM (#32584426) Homepage

    Does someone out there thinks there is an expectation of privacy for data they post on the internet?

    I thought that was exactly what you should NOT expect.

    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#32584458) Journal

      I think the issue is that he might have been arrested without having actually done anything.

      I mean, if he writes a note theatening bullies so that they don't ruin the last day of school for him, so that he can eat his lunch in peace, is it necessary for the police to step in?

      I think it's a good thing the police were notified, this is a potential threat, and it's good that they acted upon it.

      But - I mean, if you see the kid outside of school, and he didn't have a weapon on him, you've essentially got anecdotal evidence of what essentially boils down to a thought crime, which he shouldn't be ARRESTED for. Keep an eye on the kid, but no need to arrest him.

      • by s73v3r ( 963317 ) <s73v3r@gmail.RABBITcom minus herbivore> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:48PM (#32584504)
        I would think that something like this alone isn't enough to arrest the kid for, but enough to do a little investigation. After that, the decision on whether or not to arrest should come up.
      • Re:Privacy? Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:53PM (#32584560) Homepage
        Unfortunately(or fortunately) once a person writes out a threat (even if its in a riddle within a haiku) that constitutes a crime because you are stating your intentions to harm someone. Now in this case it was a little ambiguous but let this be warning. You cannot go around making fake threats against peoples lives on the Internet and just go along with your life like nothing happened. If you do it, you will be arrested.
      • He posted what could reasonably be interpreted as a threat ... and the police took him seriously. Hopefully he will learn from this experience. To paraphrase Field of Dreams "Post it and they will come" - count on it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:08PM (#32584754)
        From timothy and other bat shit insane malcontents:

        story nonetheless raises significant privacy concerns

        Bullshit. Facebook posting is not private. There is no 'privacy' involved here. No mail was opened. No phone tapped. No email account rifled through. There may be other issues to address regarding whatever wholesale analysis the cops are performing, but there are no 'privacy' issues here. The kid put it out there for the world to pick up on, automated word-eater or otherwise. End of 'privacy' issues.

        if he writes a note theatening (sic) bullies so that they don't ruin the last day of school for him

        Since we're talking hypotheticals; If such a note is presented to police and they fail to follow up and/or arrest the author and he then carries out the act do we then condemn the police or defer to your finely tuned sense of justice and celebrate our civil liberties?

        essentially boils down to a thought crime

        Bullshit. Public threats are not thoughts. Here's a big fat clue [] in case you're confused about the legalities.

      • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:28PM (#32584930)
        The internet/facebook are a public commons. Just like the street in front of the school. If a police officer was parked in his car outside of a school and a kid came walking down the middle of the street screaming "I'm going to kill every mother fucker in that school" I don't think we would question the police officers judgment if he stop the kid questioned him. We don't know what the arrest was for, nor do we know what the laws in that particular area are. The police may have gone to question him and found his room full of pipe bombs and sawed off shotguns... or it may just be illegal in that area to threaten to massacre a school. Remember, this kid publicly posted his name, his school, and his intent to harm those in the school. It's not like the government went out of their way to decipher the boys identity. Now if the kid sent an email to his friend and the FBI intercepted the email via packet sniffing and what-not, maybe I'd have a problem with it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Not only that, but I think the original post was on 4chan, not Facebook, making it even more public (you could argue that if his facebook is set to private then it isnt strictly "in the public domain".)
    • Does someone out there thinks there is an expectation of privacy for data they post on the internet?

      I thought that was exactly what you should NOT expect.

      Well, you can expect all the privacy you want ... but you're not going to get it.

    • by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:10PM (#32584782)

      People have no fucking idea what "privacy" is anymore. They've given up so much of it with Facebook, Twitter, loyalty programs, etc that no one seems to care about losing more or taking that of someone else. And if you try to explain things to them, they just look at you like you have two heads and give you that good old line: "What do you have to hide?" Any attempt to reason it out with them results in indifference: "You're just paranoid." Privacy is taking it's final few breaths because the collective fat, lazy ass of western culture has sat on it and doesn't even realize what's being smothered to death beneath its cellulite inflated cheeks. Too fucking bad for those of us who cared, we just saw it too late to make a difference. /rant of a guy now labeled "paranoid" and "suspicious" by various acquaintances because he blew up when his cellphone was temporarily "borrowed" by an (ex) friend so they could rifle through my text message history "for fun".

      • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:26PM (#32584910) Homepage

        Too fucking bad for those of us who cared, we just saw it too late to make a difference.

        So, what, you think you need to protect all those poor, ignorant pleebs from themselves? Gee wiz, how nice of you.

        Hey, here's an idea: Why don't you worry about your own privacy, and let everyone else worry about there's. If someone wants to post every little piece of minutiae of their lives on the internet, who the fuck are you to tell them they shouldn't? Are they curtailing your ability to preserve your own privacy? No. So fuck off. What they do with their personal information is their own god damned business, just as what you do with your personal information is yours.

        • by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:03PM (#32585266)

          Oh, I am fully capable of protecting my privacy on my own... if I want to live in a mud hut on a desert island.

          I get your point, but the simple fact is if anyone wants to take part in "modern society" they have to abide by it's rules and norms; even if those very rules and norms require your photo, fingerprints, DNA, fetishes, psych profile, and rectal bacteria cultures just so the we can make sure you aren't a "terrer'ist" or some weirdo who doesn't like having their entire personal life on display like some fucking monkey in a zoo.

          So to answer your question: yes, the other ignorant plebs ARE curtailing my ability to protect my privacy. Their ignorance is societies ignorance. And while I can ignore an ignorant person, unfortunately I still have to bow to an ignorant society.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hweimer ( 709734 )

          If someone wants to post every little piece of minutiae of their lives on the internet, who the fuck are you to tell them they shouldn't? Are they curtailing your ability to preserve your own privacy?

          This argument is severly short-sighted. We are not living alone on this planet, so unless you do not have a social life, you have to regularly communicate in some way with the "unwashed masses". Especially on the internet the methods of communication tend to be monopolized quite fast so you really need to care what others are doing. You probably remember the ugly days of IE-only websites with flashy ActiveX controls, which thanks to people like you and me educating others about alternatives have finally gon

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by houghi ( 78078 )

          I care about theirs, because I care about mine. If their privacy is taken, mine is taken as well. Random DNA searches, cameras all around, databases collecting all information about everything.
          So yes, they are curtailing the ability to preserve my information. They allow laws to be changed. They allow things to happen and I, as an individual, can do jack shit against it.

          Oh and if I try to be anonymous on the Intertubes, I am accused of fraud. (Yep, really happened because I entered a fake name for some webm

      • You sound like you've got a lot to hide.

        No, in all seriousness, it's not paranoia when they actually ARE out to get you. I saw a cartoon where there was a couple sitting in their house, while workers were putting up a fence. The fence was labelled "security" and the house "privacy".

        The workers were, of course, using the boards of the house to build the fence.

        That's the problem. People have been promised absolute security in everything they do. Look at the teenager who wanted to sail -- everyone is calli

      • I delete my history every time I send or receive text messages for privacy reasons. My phone has a tiny memory footprint of personal information related to me. Maybe four hours of call history, no text message history and a small list of professional contacts. My private contacts are kept on the only physical media I trust, my brain.

        • unless you have some kind of special phone that we don't know about, what is to keep your text messages from being logged elsewhere. every phone number that you call / calls you is routinely recorded as part of the billing process.
          These can be social engineered pretty easily []. So you are only protecting yourself from the person that stole/finds your phone if you lost it.

          • Yeah, I understand that texting (and even phone calls) are simple enough to monitor given the right equipment and sufficient knowledge of it. Like most people, my protection is partially security through obscurity. Virtually any person or company with the ability to monitor my communications likely doesn't give a shit about me anyways. People who *do* have an interest in, or something to gain from, my correspondence (friends, enemies, etc) largely lack the ability to gain access to it. Thus the information

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by donstenk ( 74880 )

        It's give and take and it is optional.

        There is right balance in there somewhere, and it is not the same for everybody. Remember we are only talking about a new technology here that enables communication in a slightly changed way from what was previously possible. It is a bit unknown and therefore perhaps a bit scary. You'll get used to it.

        People were scared of printed press and got used to it. Radio, TV, www, email, IM, they all had people against it for a number of reasons and in all cases you can still co

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      Fuck your red herring, FBI ass-kisser!

      That’s not the point!

      The point is that a FBI monitoring led to a UK ARREST just because of a “dangerous combination of words”.

      So in other words: Add the following string to anything, and he goes to jail, WITHOUT HAVING DONE ANY CRIME AT ALL! :

      bomb school hate bastard kill all never again bought explosives

      If that is enough for someone to go to jail, then it’s way more than is needed for me, to throw you in jail, just because I did not like your comment!
      Now how cool do you think that would be? Hm? Not very

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:31PM (#32584964) Journal
      Surely you recognise the difference between "no expectation of privacy" and "unknown; but likely substantial, levels of automated surveillance by the feds"?

      You don't have an expectation of privacy when walking around town; but if there were a plainclothes G-man following everybody around, that would be a Bad Sign(tm)....
      • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:22PM (#32585444) Homepage

        but if there were a plainclothes G-man following everybody around, that would be a Bad Sign(tm)....

        But there aren't, and the analogy doesn't hold up. You can't reasonably function without leaving your house, but what you post on Facebook is entirely within your own discretion. It's not at all like being followed around; it's like having one particular space monitored vigilantly, like a stadium, or the streets around the J. Edgar Hoover building. It's entirely up to you whether you wish to visit such places, let alone what you do when you're there. FFS, if your only guard against invasion of privacy is assuming that nobody's paying attention, then you're doing it wrong.

  • Concerns? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by microbee ( 682094 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:43PM (#32584440)

    The story nonetheless raises significant privacy concerns

    Like "OMG my public postings can be read by others"?

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:43PM (#32584444) Homepage
    Significant privacy concerns? You mean like, "Don't talk about private shit in public?"
  • by Kitkoan ( 1719118 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:43PM (#32584448)
    Seriously, how many times will we have these stories of 'Facebook found to have X issues with privacy'? Facebook is not PrivateBook, it never was nor was it ever intended to be. It was designed to be shared and be public. And when you put something in the public, guess what? People and organizations will look at it regardless of whether you want them to or not.
    • It's not so much that they expected the information to be private, its that the kid was arrested and we don't know the details. Would you like to be arrested for an angry rant you wrote on your livejournal?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's not so much that they expected the information to be private, its that the kid was arrested and we don't know the details. Would you like to be arrested for an angry rant you wrote on your livejournal?

        If I posted that I was going to blow up "X" building at my school at 3pm on a given day (not to say that's what happened here) in that angry rant, and it was public, then I think that deserves a second look.

        Just because you are on an emo rant in your blog, doesn't mean you can write whatever the hell you want and expect there to be no repercussions.

      • It's not so much that they expected the information to be private, its that the kid was arrested and we don't know the details. Would you like to be arrested for an angry rant you wrote on your livejournal?

        Considering its illegal to make death threats, its kind of expected. Just because it's a minor doesn't mean they might not be willing to go through with it (though in this article its a 19 year old). Look at all the high school shootings that were done by minors. While it might be a stupid thing to have posted an angry rant on something like livejournal doesn't make it any better. If someone makes death threats, then its going to be investigated.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rainmouse ( 1784278 )
        Am I the only person here who thinks its great that the FBI are doing this? The kid clearly needs help and waiting until he blows away a few of his classmates before doing anything about it is so last decade.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maird ( 699535 )
        It's a no win situation for everyone. I wouldn't like to be arrested for an angry rant I _published_ but it would be my own fault if I was. I also wouldn't like for someone saying in public the kind of things that precipitated this to be ignored only because the people that noticed them aren't those with a direct relationship to the one saying them. I assume the kid (and his issues) would have been dealt with using the school's discipline system if it was school staff that had picked up a threat posted on F
      • I wouldn't like to be arrested, period. If I go rob a bank, I wouldn't like to be arrested. But I'd expect that I would be.

        I tend to agree with the prevailing opinion that if you make threats to someone in public--and, yes, if your livejournal may be read by anyone, it's public--then you may get a visit from the appropriate law enforcement authorities to investigate your intentions.

        So the question is, is it unreasonable to expect to be arrested for things that you do in public even if you meant no harm?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:48PM (#32584496)

    Every time some idiot goes and posts somewhere "I'm gonna kill people" and it isn't caught, the news is "They were posting it for all the world to see, why didn't somebody stop them!?"
    Then some idiot is caught from his posting, and the new is "How dare the police read posts!?"

    While I don't believe in prior restraint and so I worry about arresting people based on things they said they might do, Facebook is the new equivalent of painting signs on the water tower. If ever anything didn't qualify for 'expectation of privacy', a service where the express purpose is to tell other people what you're doing should be it. As long as some additional police work goes into verifying that the threat is real, I think this is a good thing.

    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:07PM (#32584744)

      Every time some idiot goes and posts somewhere "I'm gonna kill people" and it isn't caught, the news is "They were posting it for all the world to see, why didn't somebody stop them!?"
      Then some idiot is caught from his posting, and the new is "How dare the police read posts!?"

      One problem with a surveillance society is that it forces the police to intervene in every event that anyone could interpret as the least bit suspicious, or else face the "Why didn't you do something!" rage whenever something does happen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by siglercm ( 6059 )

      +1 -- Please mod parent up.

      I'm jealous! because s/he beat me to the punch. I was gonna say, "How dare anyone -- especially a government agency, harrumph! -- perform an automated scan of publicly posted statements on a public website. How dare they!"

      It's public, people. It's posted with the expectation that it _will_ be freely accessed and read. That's just the opposite of an expectation of privacy, regardless of who's accessing or reading it.

  • Is the story here that the FBI monitors open communication on the internet, or that they went through the right channels to have someone arrested in a foreign country?
  • I have the dictionary on one of my sites. I am so f*#$(Q@$&
  • I know there's a problem with teenage pregnancy in the UK, but damn, getting a call from the FBI just because some teen said on their facebook page "party", "no parents", "beer", "condoms" is a bit much.

    Disclaimer: The scenario posted in this comment bares no resemblance to any actual event in this life or a past life...

  • Privacy? How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Triv ( 181010 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:54PM (#32584578) Journal

    "the story nonetheless raises significant privacy concerns."

    ...How? The kid made threats of violence on a public forum, somebody called the FBI, the FBI called Scotland Yard and they apprehended the kid before he made it to school. Sounds to me like the system worked for once.

    I know it's all the rage right now to automatically link Facebook with "Privacy Concerns," but in this case it's just asinine.

    • non, it's not 'someone called the FBI', it's the part about 'scanning software' and 'routine, automated surveillance'. As we fall deeper into a surveillance society, with cameras pointed at your front door, auto-logging of your car plates everywhere you drive, and (this is completely true) police helicopters with inferred/heat sensors flying over your house that can see through walls there is a basic issue of potential abuse of power, and the loss of freedom. Most of the 'need a warrant/ probable cause' l
    • Sure, if by "somebody" you mean "HAL 9000's nosy nephew". Or did you miss the part where automated scanning software picked up this "threat"?

      Considering how much spam gets passed my spam filter I see no reason to trust a computer program to determine whether a threat is credible. Especially one written to government specs.

  • This is not a comment on whether Facebook makes too much information public. This is a comment on the whether public data can be scanned:

    If the data was available on the public site then there is no privacy concern. If they 'hacked' facebook to get private data, then there is a privacy concern.

    Public data is public data and anybody can 'scan' it if they like.

  • Excellent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shermo ( 1284310 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @06:58PM (#32584632)

    Their monitoring has had one possibly correct hit. Therefore it was justified and it is a Good Thing (tm).

    It saddens me that so many people I talk to have this exact thought process.

  • by oblivionboy ( 181090 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:05PM (#32584720)

    ...for all those that say -- "Na, na, you have no expectation to privacy on the net" -- lets get a few things straight. The first is, Facebook actually gives the impression that privacy will be shared only with those who you invite into your social circle. That means in fact that there IS an expectation of privacy, just a rather loose one (amongst your 238 friends). However the problem here is that there is a very strong suggestion that the FBI had access to Facebook accounts that they were not "invited to", and thus, under the definition and general understanding of the Facebook privacy model, were not "authorized to" view. The key concept here is the idea of "scanning software" that picked up a "combination of words". There is no mention of a person (officer, agent, etc). Had someone reported the person (say one of the friends in the guy's social network), and the FBI had pretended to be "someone" - a living person say - and then captured the tip off as part of an investigation, then I'm sure it would have been reported much differently. In this case it would seem that somehow the FBI has an automated system that has access to accounts it hasn't been invited to, and thus there are serious privacy concerns in fact.

    Second thing is, how come the FBI is doing this on behalf of the UK? Isn't the FBI's juristiction only in the US? Aren't there certain laws that cover this sort of thing? Are the US and England playing a little game of bend the rules, by having the FBI spy on their citizens, so as to bypass local laws that prevent UK law enforcement from doing the same? And then the next logical step -- is England doing the same on behalf of the US -- spying on their citizens?

    Finally, for all those really negative people that go on and on about the bleeding obvious -- that there is no expectation of privacy on the net -- stop it. REALLY. We can dream of a better world were we do have accountable law enforcement, strict privacy laws, and the universal expectation of free speach. Impossible you say? Well I'd counter that if you don't even bother imagining it, then for sure it definately IS impossible, because you'll never even lift a finger to try.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Second thing is, how come the FBI is doing this on behalf of the UK? Isn't the FBI's juristiction only in the US?

      Yep the FBI only has jurisdiction in the US, but law enforcement everywhere shares data with each other. It's been like that for 100 odd years, no shortage of pissing matches or anything either. Canada shares with the US, US shares with Canada, both of which share with all of the EU. Japan shares with everyone, and so on.

      Short answer: There's no shortage of law enforcement sharing informati

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by microbee ( 682094 )

      However the problem here is that there is a very strong suggestion that the FBI had access to Facebook accounts that they were not "invited to"

      I see no such suggestion. Care to elaborate?

    • by rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:03PM (#32585270)

      All this ranting about privacy seems quite naive to me. I wont say who I worked for, but I worked for a year reading internet chat logs that filters pulled out with 'combinations of words'. Mostly we were picking out suicide threats, murder threats, paedophile grooming and school shooting threats. The vast majority of it was just a load of crap and reading through this kind of stuff for up to ten hours a day sure can make someone go a bit peculiar, but to think that allowing some of the indescribably horrific things I have read over that time to go unreported to the police because of a desperate need for privacy bothers me. The people scanning this detail train their eyes to sift masses of information very quickly picking out key words and phrases but rarely ever actually reading or taking in anything not relevant.

      Having a job interviewer with your private messages and your browser history before them is clearly unacceptable but stopping children from being raped and murdered seems somewhat acceptable to me. It is possible to have one without having both but knee jerk reacting with limited facts isn't going to help anyone.

    • Cleartext (Score:3, Insightful)

      Facebook is not secure. Facebook has servers in the US. The FBI can watch cleartext entering or leaving the country, pursuant to the border search doctrine. Unless someone comes up with a very good argument why that's unreasonable, and that someone takes the case to the Supreme Court. But it would have to be very good, because the First Congress approved border searches AND wrote the Bill of Right--so we know that they considered them "reasonable," and it's only unreasonable searches that are forbidden.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This could well be 'shopped but I was shown this 5 days before that BBC story. []
  • an arse-bandit having plans to blow and pound into the ground some hapless chap ?

  • by Mattniche ( 1241468 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:20PM (#32584860)
    According to this image I saw 5 days before that BBC story. []

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You are correct sir, I was actually browsing the board when this was posted. But then, stuff like this gets posted all the fucking time (often they are reposts [..of reposts of reposts of reposts]), so I paid no real notice.
  • In Soviet America, All you comments belong to us.

  • Privacy is about the embarassment of things you'd like private being made public. Our instinct for privacy isn't the crazy "between me and my gods" kind of thing - it's a mechanism that works on reputation.

    Provided that law enforcement doesn't publicise your private life when you're doing things that are pretty innocent, no foul. You have a legitimate concern about advertisers knowing too much about you, because that stuff can make a difference. As for legal agencies that are sorting through heaps of person

  • Privacy concerns? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:35PM (#32586158)

    It's looking at data which is explicitly published by people such that the general public can view it.

    Or is the summary writer claiming they are snooping the data elsewhere?

  • FBI... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:48PM (#32586256) Homepage Journal

    Face Book Incorporated

    The whole problem I have with sites like Facebook isn't that they exist, but that people treat them as if a conversation on FB is no different than one in person. There are a lot of differences:

    1. On FB, everything you post is recorded for later reference by the authorities. Yet people post as if it was a private conversation between their friends.
    2. There's no social context on the net. A joke lampooning racists can be easily misinterpreted or misconstrued as supporting racism; a serious discussion about the difficulties faced by the disabled can be made to look as if one is making fun of them. It's not just a matter of privacy - there just isn't the social context, the non-verbal cues, etc... present in normal conversation which keep face to face conversations from being misinterpreted. A light-hearted jest, "better luck next time!" after winning a tennis match could be easily misconstrued as serious rivalry or hatred, especially in the event of the untimely death of the loser. Said face to face, nothing would come of it, and even should someone overhear, it would be inadmissable in court as hearsay. However, post the same thing on FB, and suddenly a prosecutor has a motive for murder.
    3. Because of #1 above, there are limits to what can be said on FB. Certain types of discussions just can't happen because there isn't any real anonymity. People with unpopular viewpoints, or subject to unfortunate circumstances find that, unlike a personal conversation, they can't discuss what's really on their mind. Instead, they have to suppress their speech and dumb-down their banter to the same inane level as everyone else on FB. While the typical conversation with a friend might involve trivial personal matters, there are times when a heartfelt discussion is needed. By making FB the "normal" means of communication, we lose a certain amount of our ability to relate to others as human beings.

    I probably post more than I should on FB, but not nearly as much as some of my colleagues. The real problem with something like FB is that it gives any prosecuting attorney a mountain of evidence on which to have you tried should you ever become *problematic* to those in power. It's a website for the unwashed, insignificant masses ruled by the upper classes. For those fighting injustice and oppression, who have the guts to speak up for what is right, it's just another liability.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday June 16, 2010 @12:44AM (#32587350) Homepage

    Looks like a false alarm. Later report: "A 19-year-old man who was arrested by armed police at a Merseyside school has been released on bail. " []. "Merseyside Police said that their inquiries were continuing into the man, who had imitation firearms and a computer seized from his home. The alert had been raised after a threat with a picture of a gun was posted on a social networking website."

    I had something like this happen a few years back. I have a domain in ".com" which is the same as the "" domain of a boarding school in England. Occasionally I'd get misaddressed mail. (This was back when you could use a catchall address for a domain without being overwhelmed by spam.) Once I got a message with the subject "I am going to kill you tonight". After checking the headers, it was clear that it was from someone at the school, not a death threat aimed at me. (Sent from, addressed to same second level domain in .com.) Called up the school in England and reached someone in authority. 8 hour time difference; middle of the night there, someone had to be awakened. Turned out it was a 12-year old kid sending a dumb email to one of the other kids. He was disciplined by the school.

    Today, they'd send in a SWAT team.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?