ITHACA, NY- The good, the bad and the ugly are three masks that social media wears. A funny-shared post or a meme causes no harm to anyone but a threat or an aggression can. Social media can bring out both extremes of the element of surprise.
The city of Ithaca has recently been a victim of a terrorist threat as a high schooler attempted to carry out a shooting at Ithaca High School through the application, Facebook Messenger last month. He was group messaging some classmates about his plan although it isn’t quite clear if he was going to execute it.
Investigations Lieutenant at City of Ithaca Police Department, Alex Gair, reveals that Ithaca High School Principal, Jason Trumble, contacted authorities after being reported about the threat from an unknown source.
Social media’s role in society is a strange one as it promotes not only professional and personal interests but also violence and aggression. Most attacks or assaults originate from various social media platforms such as Facebook and can only be prevented by Cyber Police or civilians reporting danger.
Lt. Gair says that social media is a “secured paradise” for terrorists and dangerous individuals. They can plan and organize their acts on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter without being exposed because “they have the option to make everything about themselves private,” said Gair.
Asked if police should intervene in these dangerous waters, Lt. Gair replied imminently “Absolutely, anything that you see online whether it’s on your “News Feed” or your “Twitter Feed” that you think isn’t right should be reported straight away to any sort of authorities as we will always find the quickest and most reliable way to assist the situation”.
Terrorist attacks such as the ones executed by the Islamic State, all derive from social media as it’s the only type of communication between members of an expanded network. For example, the San Bernardino massacre carried out by two affiliates of the Islamic State could have been prevented as early as 2012 before it happened as both terrorists supported radical and violent jihad through Facebook, according to CBS News.
Although he agrees that most attacks that have been successfully operated were plotted on social media platforms, Lt. Gair claims that “the population of Facebook, Skype or any other platform of social media is simply too big and expanded to monitor”.
He doesn’t necessarily think that social media plays a significant role in dangerous situations as “it is out there and we can’t take if off now. Everyone knows that social media’s purpose isn’t to cause harm. It just happens that there’s that side of it, which is evident”.
He calls for civilians “to do the right thing and report anything that is of wrongdoing on the web” to authorities as “they play the biggest role in this era surrounded of technology”.
Asked if civilians are too afraid to report to the authorities about such a high magnitude of danger, Lt. Gair responded “It’s simple. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You contact the authorities and report the threat/incident. The actor of the threat won’t know who reported what as he probably has hundreds of friends or followers on Facebook or Twitter. In any case, most reports are anonymous unless the individual requests not to be”.
Lieutenant Gair is in favor of creating job openings to monitor Social Media as he thinks that “any help or assistance that we can get is always a big plus” but still reinforces that the population also plays a big role in securing its community.
Social media has taken the technological world by storm with its ability to connect with peers and friends from all over the world, but its ugly mask as a portal for violence is an equation that remains unsolved.