Defining the Line: Are Threats Jail-worthy?

Just how far can you take freedom of speech in today’s world? It seems a bit unfair that a simple comment can warrant jail time. Unfortunately, that is the world that has been shaped since September 11, 2001. Terrorist comments can be seen as threats, regardless of the context of the comment, and scrutinize an individual whether he or she has a previous criminal record or not. If teenagers such as Justin Carter can be arrested because of an inappropriate joke, then how far will law enforcement go in order to deem one a terrorist?

Curiosity Can Hurt
Comments on social media sites are anything but private. However, using trigger words can enact a swift action from the FBI and have you locked up until your arraignment. As in the case with Caleb Clemmons, curiosity got the better of him as his comment to “see if i get arrested” lead up to several months behind bars. He is now banned for five years from social media.

One particular 19-year old was arrested in 2012 while making comments after being antagonized by another player in the popular “Runescape” game. Like his younger counterpart that made a bad joke, Josh Pillault was essentially bullied until he went too far in his comments. At which point, the antagonizer turned Josh in for terrorist threats. Not only did Josh not have a criminal background, but he didn’t have tools available to carry out the threat of killing a school full of children. At least, that is what the FBI found when raiding his home a few days later. Josh could be fined $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison – because of a comment made out of anger.

It’s OK if God is Involved?
As the younger generation is apparently being made an example for the thin line between freedom of speech and terrorism, why haven’t those at the Westboro Baptist Church been arrested as well? This group is notorious for embracing terrorism against the United States for several decades, but yet they are allowed to protest in any venue they wish. Comments made by children while in the throws of anger can be excused due to the amount of emotion that is involved. Those of the WBC happily protest anything that is against their views of biblical writing and praise terrorist activities against US soldiers abroad. Does the fact that the WBC is immune to such terrorist views coincide with being a religion? Is the line between defiance and righteousness drawn by God’s finger?

Cyber Investigation
Since law enforcement officials constantly monitor social media for these keywords, any use of them can trigger an experience that could ruin your life. If convicted, these teenagers over the age of 18 will now have to explain to future employers why they were convicted of terrorism. In a frightened world, this could be extremely damaging to the welfare of anyone. Can you imagine; 10 years in prison, a quarter of a million dollars in fines and all because of an ill-conceived comment made out of anger?

Threats of any kind can be viewed as terrorism to an individual, so does that mean that we can send anyone to jail who even mentions death or bodily harm to us regardless of the situation? Can jokes of destruction and mayhem be enough to lock up comedians in today’s world? It seems that freedom is a loose term that can be warped to fit the needs of those who are in power. Where is the line drawn for our future children?

This article is contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.


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