Social Media; Mass Shooters and Manifestos

We need to start identifying the triggers that aggravate mental health issues in our society – bullying, social media negativity and anxiety, gender based violence, substance abuse, stigma around issues such as maternal issues, etc., and we need to speak up about these more and get to the source of the problems. Sanam Saeed

Over the past two weeks I have given this much thought. Should social media be required to report any type of postings that could be a perceived manifesto that is suggesting possible threat of harm and injury to one or more persons?

The criminal code of Canada states this:

Uttering threats

  • 264.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat
    • (a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;
    • (b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or
    • (c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.

Over the past several years we have seen social media companies start to act to stem the tide of misinformation. Many fake accounts were closed, others lost their privilege to use the social media platforms.

In a Forbes article it addresses the issue concerning the mass shooter and the posting on his Instagram account.

On Wednesday, authorities in Texas identified Salvador Ramos as the 18-year-old shooter who had opened fire in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Ramos, who had killed at least 19 students and two teachers during his shooting spree on Tuesday, had allegedly posted disturbing images online prior to carrying out the senseless attack.

In the same article they write about The New York Attorney General, Letitia James, that she will be investigating social media companies after this last mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

It was just last week that New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, announced that her office was investigating social media companies after another mass shooter had used the online platforms to plan, promote and stream a massacre in a Buffalo grocery store that left 10 dead. James said her office would investigate Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord along with other platforms that the shooter used to amplify the attack.

Did someone miss the clues about many mass shooters? Was the writing on the wall? There seems to be a definite pattern for mass shooters announcing their intentions by postings what authorities call, “manifestos”.

Teachers have alerted authorities about students who seem to be fixated on dark violence, either through drawings, writings, or even oral conversations.

William V. Pelfrey, Jr., Ph.D., professor in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. tells Forbes that, “It is impossible to prevent people from making threats online,”

He then continues,, “Yet he suggested that social media organizations do have a moral responsibility to identify and remove threatening messaging.”

This blogger leans to the agreement with the professor. Social media platforms need to step up their monitoring of such posts, take appropriate actions to remove such threats. I can hear somebody arguing that this would infringe of a person’s “free speech”. Is uttering threats “free speech”. It is against the law to holler, “FIRE”, in a movie theatre. One cannot even joke about a bomb on a jet plane.

So dear reader, I ask you, should the social media platforms step up their effort on monitoring these types of postings? I would definitely like to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Ashley L. Peterson

    I think that’s much easier said than done. First, they’d have to actually catch whatever was being said. How fast can they catch violent actions mid-streaming? Twitch removed the livestream within 2 minutes of it starting – how much faster can they get?

    And if the issue was talk that sounded threatening, then what? Vague, nonspecific threats probably don’t meet the threshold for criminality. If I post on my blog that I’d like to see someone run over by a bus, is WordPress then responsible for catching that and taking it down?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that hindsight is 20/20, and expecting internet platforms to prevent violence may not be realistic. Social media makes for an easy target, but I’m not sure it’s an effective target.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. rts – Facing the Challenges of Mental Health

      Ashley, your points are valid and I agree with you.
      I just feel that something has to be done. Someone needs to start a conversation absent of politics or money.
      Yeah, I guess social media is an easy target.
      I write out of frustration because it appears like everyone is stuck in the mud spinning their wheels.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chel Owens

    I second Ashley’s observations. And what about popular shows that feature shootings as a story point? Wasn’t there one that removed their episode because it involved a school shooting?

    I think you raise a very good, valid point -and that watching for that sort of activity is a great idea. I just don’t know if they can do it and what can be done once someone in authority is notified. Simply removing the post doesn’t erase the ideas from a person’s head. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rts – Facing the Challenges of Mental Health

      Chelsea, they already do this type of reporting when I comes to doctors and educators when they feel that there has been child abuse.
      I sometimes feel that, yes, there is too much violence shown on t.v.
      I remember the debate that was about video games that people thought were too graphic with violence in them. The argued that this de-sensitizes the children to violence. Some also said that children after too much of this seem to blur the lines between the game and reality.
      I feel this subject needs to be explored. My heart breaks every time I think about innocent children being slaughtered. How many great scientists, authors, lawyers, teachers and upcoming moms and dads have been cut down before they reached their potential?
      I just don’t know and definitely don’t understand why more isn’t being done to stop these type of tragedies from happening!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Chel Owens

        Everyone says that but no one wants to choose the more difficult path of responsibility, eschewing hedonism. I think a constant presence online does more damage than a video game; the two can, of course, be the same.

        Liked by 1 person

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