The Dangers of Social Media

Texas teen Justin Carter on trial for terribly offensive Facebook joke

Texas teen on trial for terribly offensive Facebook joke

Austin teenager Justin Carter is on trial for mouthing off online in an extremely insensitive way. The question is: Was it in a criminal way?

Carter and an acquaintance were arguing over Facebook about the popular online video game League of Legends. According to the arrest warrant, the other individual told Justin he was "crazy," to which Justin responded, "I'm fucked up in the head alright, I think I'ma shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them." He followed up with "LOL" [laugh out loud] and "JK" [just kidding].

 Carter's father told reporters, "When you use Facebook, when you use Twitter ... the things you are saying can and will be used against you."

Had he not clarified he was "joking," we may have seen a resurgence of what now feels like an age-old debate: Do video games make people violent?

Either way, a woman in Canada stumbled upon the post, took it upon herself to Google Carter's address and, after noticing that he lived near an elementary school, notified police of what she thought could be a serious threat. The Texas teen's joke came only months after the Sandy Hook school shootings.

Carter, 19, has been in jail since March. He's charged with making a "terroristic threat" and faces up to eight years in prison.

Carter's parents have launched an online White House petition, pleading for Barack Obama to release Carter and change the terroristic threat laws. The petition already has 34,815 signatures. No one's saying that Carter's comment was in good taste. Rather, the argument is that what the teen said was sarcastic and relatively harmless — and not worthy of a long jail sentence.

Justin's father Jack Carter told reporters, "These kids, they don't realize what they're doing. They don't understand the implications. They don't understand public space."

He also warned others, “If I can just help one person to understand that social media is not a playground, that when you go out there into social media, when you use Facebook, when you use Twitter, when you go out there and make comments on news articles ... the things you are saying can and will be used against you."

Justin Carter
Justin Carter, the Austin teen accused of "making a terroristic threat."
League of Legends logo
League of Legends, the multiplayer online battle game that ultimately led to Carter's arrest.