Social media is a grand and wild thing in our society. On Facebook, users can track down old acquaintances they haven’t seen since high school, on YouTube an enterprising person can start a successful web series that garners millions of views, and on Twitter, you can be arrested and subject to 15 years in prison for deciding to re-tweet a post.
Or, at least you can if you’re Muslim.
Apprehended earlier this year in Missouri, Safya Roe Yassin faces over a decade in prison for re-tweeting postings on Twitter that contained the names of U.S. law enforcement and military personnel, according to The Wall Street Journal. Though it is understandable that the federal government wants to be careful, their approach in this case is far too heavy handed to accept.
If an individual has controversial views but never acts on them, they should be free from legal harm.
One example is Gilberto Valle. In 2013 the former New York City police officer made headlines after he was arrested and charged with supposedly masterminding plots to kidnap murder and eat several women. Dubbed the “Cannibal Cop”, the charges were dropped in late 2015. According to Valle in an interview with Slate, he wasn’t serious about his desires so much as he was playing to an audience. They liked what he wrote and so he kept providing for them.
In short, he fits the example described above. However, had Mr. Valle been an Arab or member of the Muslim faith, the FBI or another law enforcement agency may have tried to coax him into carrying out some of the twisted and degenerate things described in his writing. Though not extensively reported, the feds seem to do this a lot to make it look like they can handle ISIS.
Last year, the Intercept reported on the case of Sami Osmakac , in the video released to the press, Mr. Osmakac poses with a suicide vest, a pistol and an AK-47 and looks every bit the image that people across the country are taught to fear from the news, there’s just one big problem though.
Mr. Osmakac was poor, had no known connections to international terrorists and, perhaps most disturbingly, the F.B.I gave him all of the weapons seen at his side in the “martyrdom” video.
Without their help, he probably wouldn’t have been arrested. Much like Ms. Yassin, Osmakac more than likely would have just been another person with unusual views lurking on the internet.
Again, to be fair to law enforcement, sometimes it is true that people with radical views do take their ramblings into reality. We all remember Elliot Rodger and his creepy postings the day before he shot several people in Santa Barbra and no one can forget Eric Harris and his raving online before he and Dylan Klebold committed the Columbine Massacre.
Regardless of the evil they later committed, they had a right to say the awful things that they did. If no evidence is present that someone is going to carry out a threat, they should be free to keep saying foolish statements. There are individuals like Harris, Yassin and Rodger all over the nation. If they want it, they should be given help, not a pair of shiny handcuffs.