After the California shootings, monitoring social media for threats

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A month before Friday night’s mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, police did a wellness check at the residence of the alleged shooter. This was after multiple videos were posted to YouTube with threats of suicide and mass murder.

While proper, protocol was followed, the tragedy still occurred.

“We’re gonna go back and we’re gonna look at and examine the procedures,” said Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist in Birmingham who has a connection to small California town. Klapow spent his freshman year of college at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

“What they’re going to examine is not so much did it go right or did it go wrong, but if it went right, what’s wrong with the system.”

This isn’t the first time the system of checks and balances for mental health awareness and their relation with violent acts has failed. Newtown, Connecticut and Auroa, Colorado both had mass casualty shootings at the hands of gunmen with mental health disabilities. The shooting in Isla Vista, though, had the added element of social media threats.

“I think this is a very important wake up call for all of us in that it starts asking the question where is the line between mental health, legal rights, the role of parents, the role of community and taking threats seriously,” Klapow said. “We have so much information that is being posted on the Internet now. When you see something like a video that was posted and if you think that it is something that is not right, it is time for us to all start heightening our concern and to tell other people, to let other people know and to not say things like, ‘It was just a video.'”

But can citizens be expected to be the line of defense for threats posted to social media? Should law enforcement be the one to monitor for these threats?

“I think the website has an obligation,” said Joseph Brown of Birmingham. “I can see how they might have things slip by them, especially something like YouTube that’s a big website. The police should definitely take action as soon as they are made aware of the threat.”

“The government ought to take total responsibility for that,” said Walter Gilbert of Birmingham. “I think it would be better if they monitored because somebody has to.”

“I think the first time (a threat is made) is good enough,” Amatulah A-Alim of Birmingham said. “Somebody makes a thrat to harm any individual, and particularly on the web where everybody in the world can read it, then I think it should be taken seriously.”

The question then becomes how much freedom would people be willing to give up for government monitoring in exchange for safety. Most people WIAT 42 News talked with were in favor of sacrificing some freedoms in order to assure safety.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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