Jamie Butow

Monday, Jul 08 2013 04:14 PM

JAMIE BUTOW: How far does free speech really go?

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    Jamie Butow, Californian community engagement coordinator.

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By Jamie Butow

For everything social media is and isn't, in 2013 it is taken seriously. Very seriously. Maybe you've been following the saga of Texas teenager Justin Carter, who is facing trial and 10 years behind bars over comments he made on Facebook that were later deemed to be "terroristic threat."

Yes, you read that right.

In February, just two months after the Sandy Hook school shooting, the then 18-year-old was arrested after he got into a verbal spat over an online game.

After being provoked and told he was "messed up in the head" by a fellow League of Legends player, Carter commented:

"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."

Carter's father has said that the next messages Carter wrote included "lol" (for laughing out loud) and "jk" (for just kidding).

He talked to an NPR reporter and said, "It's incredibly inappropriate when you take it out of context for sure. It was a sarcastic remark in response to an insult."

Nevertheless, a woman in Canada was alarmed and called authorities. The Carter home was searched (no weapons were found) and his computer seized.

He was charged with making a terroristic threat, a third-degree felony.

That means Carter, now 19, could spend 10 years in prison for the Facebook comment. A judge set his bond at $500,000, and a trial is scheduled to begin this month.

The family said it can't afford to pay the bond, and that Justin is depressed and being beaten up in jail.

It started a petition on Change.org to get him released (www.change.org/petitions/release-my-son-justin-carter-in-jail-for-a-facebook-comment).

His father, Jack Carter, told NPR that Justin is "really sorry," that he just got caught up in the moment and didn't think about the implications.

He added, "Nobody's life should be ruined because of a sarcastic comment."

Here's my question to all of you:

In today's social media world where people, especially younger generations, speak now and think later, how far does freedom of speech really go?

SNAPCHAT

Oh, look -- another incident where teens and social media required the involvement of local authorities.

Some teenage girls in New Jersey sent naked photos of themselves via Snapchat to their boyfriends, who in turn posted screenshots of the photos to Instagram.

Snapchat is an app that lets you send photos that disappear moments after they're viewed. But it's very easy to take a screenshot of those pictures and preserve them forever.

Faculty at their high school heard about it and called the local police and told every student who had the pictures to delete them, or they could be charged with possession of child pornography.

Shouldn't kids know better than to send dirty pictures to anyone, much less teenage boys? I guess not.

DREYER'S

Saturday's front page of The Californian featured a column by business reporter John Cox on his tour of the Dreyer's ice cream plant here in Bakersfield.

When I posted the image of the front page on Facebook (Facebook.com/BakersfieldCalifornian), a reader commented "Dryers is good. Dewar's is better, and LOCAL!"

This is my question: Dreyer's employs more than 1,200 people here. Wouldn't they be considered local, too?

And by the way, tune in to "First Look with Scott Cox" at 9 a.m. today on Bakersfield.com. John Cox, no relation, will demonstrate the proper way to eat a Drumstick. It apparently involves taking the top off. Who knew?

Jamie Butow is the community engagement coordinator for The Bakersfield.com Network. Email her at JButow@bakersfield.com. Follow her at Facebook.com/JamieButow2, and on Twitter@JamieButow.

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