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‘Think before you post:’ FBI launches campaign against hoax threats

“Think before you post.”

In the last month, police arrested more than two dozen people around the country for posting threats of violence.

An arrest was made in Collier County Tuesday and another in Orlando last week.

A common theme, when confronted by law enforcement: they said they didn’t mean it or it was just a joke.

However, it’s also a crime, a serious one that law enforcement cannot ignore these days. Making one of these posts, even if it’s meant as a joke, can ruin your life.

Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges.

“The Bureau and its law enforcement partners take each threat seriously. We investigate and fully analyze each threat to determine its credibility,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich. “Hoax threats disrupt school, waste limited law enforcement resources, and put first responders in unnecessary danger. We also don’t want to see a young person start out adulthood with a felony record over an impulsive social media post. It’s not a joke; always think before you post.”

The FBI also notes that in addition to consequences for those who issue threats, there is also a significant societal cost. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources, and responding to hoax threats takes officers away from real threats and costs taxpayers money. Those threats can also cause severe emotional distress to students, school personnel and parents.

The new campaign has sparked a new hashtag: #ThinkBeforeYouPost.

Here are some other tips on hoax threats from the FBI:

What Should I Do?

  • Don’t ever post or send any hoax threats online…period.
  • If you are a target of an online threat, alert your local law enforcement immediately.
  • If you see a threat of violence posted on social media, immediately contact local law enforcement or your local FBI office. Members of the public can always submit a tip to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
  • Notify authorities but don’t share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate—this can spread misinformation and cause panic.
  • If you are a parent or family member, know that some young people post these threats online as a cry for attention or as a way to get revenge or exert control. Talk to your child about the proper outlet for their stress or other emotions, and explain the importance of responsible social media use and the consequences of posting hoax threats.

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Briana Harvath
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