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Twitter is No Laughing Matter for U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Posted on the 13 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Twitter is no laughing matter for U.S. Department of Homeland Security


As most of us have joined the ranks of various social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in recent years, we’ve had to learn a few lessons about privacy on the Internet. Namely, that it doesn’t really exist anymore. Even with restricted privacy settings, a racy photo on Facebook or a nasty comment on Twitter can go viral and affect a person’s reputation, job, or criminal record.

Most recently, two British tourists were detained upon entry into the U.S. due to a joke one of them made on Twitter about their plans to “destroy America.” Clearly the U.S. Department of Homeland Security isn’t up on British slang – the suspected tweet simply referred to the pair’s intentions to party on holiday in L.A. After being detained for 12 hours, they were barred entry to the U.S. and sent home.

The problem isn’t the fact that the Homeland Security Department and other law enforcement agencies are monitoring social networking sites – after all, anything posted on the Internet can be considered as public information. Social networking sites could potentially serve as platforms for real terrorism threats and other issues of national security.

The real problem here is the fact that a simple joke was taken far too seriously. If Homeland Security is going to monitor an individual’s uncensored contributions to the public domain, they should do a better job of determining the difference between innocent jokes and real threats.

It could be argued that we should watch what we say on social networks – some might say that making a comment about destroying America on Twitter would be like having a conversation about bombs in an airport. The reality is that proper discretion needs to come from both sides. In order to uphold our rights to free speech through mediums such as social networking sites, law enforcement agencies should use more discretion when it comes to deciding between a national threat and a simple joke.

Jesse Harwell is a former private investigator who now owns and manages the site Master of Homeland Security, a resource for students looking to earn a Master’s Degree in Homeland Security.

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