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August 30, 2013 1:16 PM When a Twitter Threat Is Not a Threat

By Daniel Luzer

TwitterAttacks

Today in the department of Not Understanding Social Media comes this this piece from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A St. Louis Community College at Meramec student was arrested and released Wednesday for tweeting a “violent” threat directed at the campus’ financial aid office, authorities say.

The female student’s tweet was discovered Wednesday morning. It said she wanted to kill someone because of her frustrations with the financial aid process at Meramec, said campus spokesman DeLancey Smith.

Now, this is surely a slightly irresponsible tweet, but in fact it is neither violent nor a threat.

I might be missing something here, since student deleted the actual Tweet, but this really doesn’t seem to make sense.

Saying you “want to kill someone” due to your frustrations with the financial aid office does not actually indicate any plans to kill anything. It in fact represents pretty common language use among melodramatic and exasperated college freshmen.

Apparently someone in the school’s public affairs office discovered the tweet at 9:30 a.m. and contacted campus police and closed down the financial aid office for two hours. “We monitor social media very closely,” said DeLancey Smith.

Um, if you were so concerned why didn’t you just contact the student first and ask her what was going on? The college apparently eventually found the unnamed student, who then turned herself into the city police.

According to the article, “It was an expression of frustration,” Smith said. “She was in tears. She realized she made a big mistake.”

And how about St. Louis Community College? Any mistakes there?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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