Many people exercise poor judgement on Facebook, a site where Freedom of Speech may no longer apply.
Recently, young Facebook users who have posted controversial status messages have ended up in jail.
Sometimes the messages they typed were actually offensive. Other times they were jokes gone terribly wrong. One teen was even arrested for posting violent rap lyrics.
Most of the time, the Facebook offenders are impulsive. They type before they think, and lately they’ve had to pay serious consequences.
Justin Carter, 19, Texas, USA
Justin Carter is a 19-year-old who has been in jail since February 2013.
The reason: he was allegedly insulted by a fellow League of Legends gamer who questioned his mental state and retorted:
I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them.
The comment worried a Canadian woman who tipped authorities. Carter’s house was searched, his computer was taken, and he was arrested. He’s currently awaiting a trial even though he and his family maintain that the Facebook messages were meant to be sarcastic.
Matt Woods, 19, England
A teenager in England, Matthew Woods, was sentenced to three months in jail after making numerous inappropriate comments about a five year old, April Jones and a four year old, Madeleine McCann, who disappeared, according to The Daily Mail.
The offensive comments stemmed from Sickipedia, a site that encourages the swapping of tasteless jokes.
Woods’ Facebook messages included:
I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place.
Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?
Woods’ mother wasn’t pleased. Daily Mail says she wrote a follow up message, “You should stop and think things out before opening ya gob,” at which point Woods wrote an apology and said he had been drunk while writing the messages.
Still, an angry mob showed up at Woods’ house and the court was notified of the offensive comments. Woods was told at the time of his sentence, “This was a disgusting and despicable crime which the bench finds completely abhorrent…We felt there was no other sentence which would convey the abhorrence that many people have for this sort of crime.”
Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 20 and 22, England
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, used Facebook to try and encourage a riot in England and they were sentenced to four years in prison. Blackshaw created a Facebook event for “Smash Down in Northwich Town.” Sutcliffe-Keenan used a Facebook account to create a page for The Warrington Riots.
The Guardian reported that their sentencing judge told Blackshaw he has committed “an evil act” at a time when “collective insanity gripped the nation”.
Paula Asher, 18, Kentucky, USA
Last September, 18-year-old Paula Asher was sent to jail after NBC says she hit a car with four teenagers in it and drove off, got a DUI, then joked about it on Facebook. She wrote:
My dumb ass got a dui and I hit a car…lol
The parents of the teens in the car saw Asher’s message and asked a local judge to have her remove the post and stop using Facebook, NBC reports. When Asher declined, she was sentenced to two days in prison for contempt of court. She then had to go back to court to face the charges she admitted to in her status message.
“I apologise to everybody,” Ashler later said. “I apologise to the judge. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody. I didn’t think ‘lol’ would put me in jail.”
Cameron D’Ambrosio, 18, Massachusetts, USA
D’Ambrosio is a high school student who is also an aspiring rapper. The Massachusetts native posted some of his lyrics on Facebook and was initially arrested without bail. He was told what he posted was a “terroristic threat.”
The lyrics read:
F— a boston bombinb [sic] wait til u see the sh– I do, I’ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me.
A grand jury decided not to indict D’Ambrosio.
Muhammad Ruhul Amin Khandaker, Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, Amin Khandaker was sentenced to jail for joking about his desire for the Prime Minister to die, The Huffington Post reports.
Khandaker worked for Jahangirnagar University’s Department of Information and Technology and was commenting on Facebook about a number of newsworthy, fatal traffic accidents. He typed something to the effect of, “Why can’t this happen to [Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina?”
The casual comment led him to a six-month jail sentence. Khandaker was traveling in Australia at the time and sought refuge there. The Huffington Post’s contributor Mark Hillary notes that Bangladesh is more sensitive to Facebook material than other countries:
“The Bangladeshi government has something of a track record with Facebook – which is by far the most popular social network in the country. In May 2010 they blocked Facebook access because of satirical images of the prophet Muhammad.”
David Voelkert, Indiana, USA
Voelkert was the mastermind behind an elaborate Facebook sting which got him arrested, but quickly released.
In mid-2011, Voelkert received a Facebook friend request from someone who looked like an attractive teenager named “Jessica Studebaker.” But Voelkert believed it was his ex-wife trying to toy with him. He got a notarised affidavit which stated:
“I am lying to this person [Jessica Studebaker] to gain positive proof that it is indeed my ex-wife trying to again tamper in my life. In no way do I have plans to leave with my children or do any harm to Angela Dawn Voelkert or anyone else.”
Voelkert had numerous conversations with “Studebaker” on Facebook that made it seem like he was striking up a romance with her and plotting to end all ties with his ex-wife. Specifically, he told “Studebaker” (who was indeed his ex-wife) that he placed a GPS device in Angela’s car so he could find her and kill her. Then he asked “Studebaker” to run away with him.
Voelkert’s ex-wife Angela went to authorities and told them of the conversation. David was arrested shortly after but was released when he brought out the affidavit.
Mark Bryon, Ohio
Mark Bryon and his wife were going through a messy divorce and his custody of his child was in jeopardy. He blasted his wife on his Facebook page saying:
“… if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband’s life and take your son’s father away from him completely — all you need to do is say that you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner…”
His ex-wife found out about the post and brought it to the authorities. From USA Today:
“Domestic Relations Magistrate Paul Meyers found Mark Byron in contempt and ordered him jailed for 60 days beginning March 19 — or to post for 30 days on his Facebook page an apology to his wife, written by Meyers, if he wanted to avoid jail. He also had to pay her $1,156 in back child support and her lawyers’ fees.”
Mark Byron’s lawyer was shocked. She told USA Today:
In a million years, I didn’t think he’d be found in contempt.
He did nothing but vent. She didn’t like what he had to say. That’s what this boils down to.
… And a warning from Ireland…
In 2011, Patrick Kissane, 27, from Knockasartnett, Kerry was found not guilty of inciting hatred against Travellers on a Facebook page. The case was the first of its kind in Ireland with Kissane charged with publishing material offensive to the Travelling community, under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.
Kissane was cleared after he apologised and the court said that the creation of the page, while “obnoxious, revolting and disgusting” had been a one-off.