This story is old news in some ways, but I only heard about it a couple of days ago. There are a couple of young men age 18/19 years old who in interactions in online games and Facebook, after being antagonized by other people, made unfortunate comments about shooting up a school. In reading various articles about this topic it definitely seems to me that neither of these young men meant the comments seriously, but now both of them are facing a potential of 10 years in jail and having a felony conviction on their records. You can find more information about these specific stories on the Huffington Post, The Daily Caller, and Opposing Views.
The thing that these two stories really bring to light is the idea of freedom of speech online. We are constantly told that we need to stand up for our right to freedom of speech. That we should be able to say almost anything we want as long as it is not causing true harm. The reason that shouting fire in a crowded theatre – when there is not a fire – is illegal is because the corresponding stampede could cause actual harm to people unnecessarily. At the same time if people are making threats and we just ignore them then what does that mean when things actually happen? It is such a complicated balance, but I definitely do not feel that the end – making schools safe – justifies the means – jailing a couple of just-turned adults. Continue reading