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Social media monitoring – One tool to stop killers?

February 27, 2018

As all too often happens after catastrophic events, be they school shootings or wildfires, both the media and the persons most directly concerned seem to turn to the most “photogenic” measures possible.

So it is with the Stoneman-Douglas school shooting.

For some reason, the media target is suddenly the NRA and all of its members in the United States first and guns second.

There’s just one problem.

None of those people, or that organization, or even the firearm was responsible for a single death at Parkland.

No, the responsible party was a seriously screwed up 19-year-old who should have been in confinement long before he ever pulled a trigger.

By now we have all heard about all the missed opportunities and epic failures by every person who touched the shooter’s life

What we haven’t heard is one single thing that we can do going forward to stop the next school massacre.

Whatever your politics, the real answer was to remove the threat, i.e. the shooter.

Almost everyone of the school killers seems to have had an active presence on social media, and indeed, many of the warnings  from this killer’s  peers included screen grabs and links to his social media pages.

Which brings us to social media monitoring, and the role it can play as a deterrent.

Some schools and law enforcement agencies already utilize firms that specialize in identifying potential school threats, as this 2016 article by Ray Bennett on the website District makes clear.

The article makes reference to seven firms that specialize in identifying possible threats on social media generally, while some, like Geo Listening or Impero , specifically target the school environment.

Of course, as we saw so tragically in Parkland, identifying the threat doesn’t do a lot of good unless it results in nullifying that threat.

With all due respect to President Trump, it isn’t true that all school shootings could be stopped with armed opposition in the schools. There’s always a wild card in the deck.

Every police officer has been confronted with, or knows of situations where the intent of a violent person was to both inflict harm AND die in what the warped mind sees as a blaze of glory in a suicide-by-cop scenario.

So what good would social media monitoring do?

First, it would identify possible killers before they acted.

Second, it would give law enforcement grounds to act proactively instead of waiting until they were called to a scene for domestic violence or some other violent encounter.

And third, it would be done by people with no personal attachment to the disturbed person, taking personal bias out of the picture.

None of that would matter of course unless the agency,  group or school had both the will to act on the intel, and a legal environment that acted immediately to remove both the person and any means he or she might have to carry out threats.

With all of the media coverage about guns, it is only a matter of time until some school killer goes for another weapon.

Notice the use of the term “school killer” instead of school shooter.

In keeping perhaps with the times, school killers can be female and they can be 21 or over, as proven by the arrest of one DACA-eligible 21-year-old female  killer in-the-making  in Rochester, New York, and they can use a weapon other than a semi-automatic rifle.

Notably, the Rochester New York woman is alleged to have had bomb-making materials as well as the shotgun she was found with when arrested. She is said to be developmentally challenged, but apparently she is smart enough to know how she wants to hurt people.

Under New York law, making threats against a school is charged as domestic terrorism, a Federal crime.

That’s one of the few positives about the way her case is being handled, since every liberal and his or her parakeet is making excuses for her, including the judge who set her bail at just $100, and removed her from a Federal detention facility so her family and lawyer can visit her.

And that brings us to the final piece of the puzzle.

Unless the public, the politicians, as well as law enforcement and the media are willing to look at the individual making the threats as the weapon, we are never going to solve this problem.

If social media monitoring can at least provide a red flag warning, then maybe some of those local and Federal dollars should be used to pay for a subscription to an unbiased early warning system.

From → op-ed

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