California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    The law should take online threats seriously

    Many years ago, if you had something to say to someone, you said it to their face. However, technology has made it easier for people to hide behind their computer screen and send threatening messages to others.

    Online threats are becoming more of an issue as technology advances, and have proven to result in devastating outcomes. We are not taking online threats seriously enough.

    According to, an organization committed to providing information about bullying and harassment, โ€œone in three young people have experienced threats online, and fewer than one in five people have reported these incidents to law enforcement.โ€

    Bullying and harassment can cause depression, anxiety, isolation and even suicide.Doing the right thing in response to a threat can be the difference between life and death.

    There are federal laws that pertain to online threats. Although I am not a fan of the Huffington Post, they have a great deal of information on this issue. According to their website, there are four specific laws regarding online threats: โ€œThreatening the president, vice president, or other protectee of the secret service, threatening or harassing someone or their property, threatening someone behind a fictitious identity, and soliciting others to commit a crime of violence is against the law.โ€

    Eric Donahoo, sophomore at California Lutheran University, believes that online threats are just as real as threats offline.

    โ€œA threat is a threat. Itโ€™s the same as leaving a threatening voicemail. It should be punishable under state law regardless of the social media used,โ€ said Donahoo. This issue has come up recently when a man named Eric Yee was arrested for making death threats on ESPNโ€™s website, saying he would be willing to murder children who bought LeBron Jamesโ€™ Nike shoes. Law enforcement decided to investigate and found that he was in possession of an illegal firearm.

    Yeeโ€™s lawyer says law enforcement overreacted in their investigation about Yeeโ€™s comment. I donโ€™t think they did. If there is a clear threat, I think we should do everything in our power to ensure that the person behind the threat will not act on it.

    Russell Stockard, communications professor at CLU, believes that this type of threat is also one of the most important things to consider when determining whether a threat is real or not.

    โ€œIf there is something about the content of the threat that makes it seem credible then we need to really take it seriously,โ€ said Stockard.

    For example, if someone posts a derogatory joke online, one might take offense and see it as a threat. However, if there is a direct threat to the well-being of a person or group of people, like the Nike threat, law enforcement needs to step in and investigate.

    Stockard also believes there are certain threats that are โ€œvividโ€ threats, meaning that the vividness of a threat might make us take it more seriously. The more wildly detailed, the more we pay attention and act.

    But it is also up to the person threatened to determine whether they believe it is serious.

    Senior Amelia Daniels believes that we should take threats โ€œseriously to an extent,โ€ because โ€œyou never know the potential of the threat.โ€

    You might not know who is behind the threat if the person is using social media or anonymous names to protect their identity.

    Most social media sites have their own rules and regulations regarding threats or inappropriate content.

    If I was uncomfortable with a picture or comment that someone decided to post on Facebook, I could report it. They can remove the offensive item and investigate further if need be.

    However, if a threat is serious enough, it needs to be reported to law enforcement right away.

    This is why it is important for us to recognize the importance and severity of a threat.

    According to Cyber Investigation Services, it is important to compile as much information as possible about who might be behind the attack and why, so that law enforcement can respond quickly to the situation to prevent any harm from occurring. School officials, parents and teachers must be proactive in helping victims deal with the situation properly.

    There are many websites available to provide advice to those who are being threatened or bullied online, and it is always important to alert the authorities of a potentially dangerous situation.

    Many lives could be saved if authorities investigate every threat that seems credible.

    Donahoo believes in taking threats seriously, but at the same time, thinks we need to step back into reality.

    โ€œEveryone should get a life, and get offline,โ€ said Donahoo.

    Heโ€™s right. Maybe if we stepped away from technology for a moment, this issue wouldnโ€™t be as big of a problem.

    If kids had limited technology usage, it wouldnโ€™t be as easy to target others. If people stopped posting rude or controversial comments online, maybe people wouldnโ€™t feel the need to comment back with a dangerous threat.

    Technology makes it so easy to hide behind a username and say terrible things. Maybe all of these advances in technology are doing more harm than good.


    Madison Jones
    Staff Writer
    Published On Oct. 3, 2012

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