Gregory A Stecklow
Instructor: Anthony Baker
12 November, 2012
Facebook has become the largest social media site with over 1 billion active users as of September 14, 2012. Of those 1 billion users on average for June 2012, 552 million were considered daily active users. (Potalinski, Oct 4, 2012) The world has gone crazy with social media. The ability to update one’s status on anything that has an internet connection has been enhanced through technological advances in both phones and tablets. The Federal Government deemed it necessary to monitor social sites on October 26, 2001 with the inception of the Patriot Act. The liberties given to the government since the Patriot Act was signed into law has been debated over the potential violation of an individual’s privacy. This author believes the Patriot Act does not violate individual privacy rights. The individuals violate their own rights by what they post. The Federal Government monitors for potential national security threats through watch words. The Patriot Act affords them this right. An individual has the ability to speak their mind. The Federal Government is only concerned with posts that show potential threats to national security. There have been 50 cases of threats to national security since the Patriot Act’s inception in 2001 that have been stopped. Jason from Austin Texas was questioned and released hours following a seemingly harmless personal opinion post on Facebook. Did the Federal Government overstep the liberties given by the Patriot Act to even question Jason? Let us find out what the research reveals.
Jason from Austin Texas simply commented on a political post one of his friends had made on Facebook regarding the former Senator Rick Santorum. Jason did not reveal his full name to the reporter Jason Brashear who writes for CivilinWars.com with his story. For the lack of confusion from here on out, the reporter will be noted as Brashear. The comment that got Jason in trouble was “I wish there was a magic wand to make Santorum disappear…” This post was taken directly off of the post thread on February 20, 2012. The Austin Police and two Williamson County Sherriff’s deputies were alerted to the post and tried to locate Jason. After unsuccessfully finding Jason at his work, the officers called Jason and set up a meeting later that evening at Jason’s home. The officers explained they were there because of a possible threat to Senator Santorum. Jason did not know that Senator Santorum had a visit planned for Austin in the next few days. The visit was far enough in the future from the post for the local law enforcement to be sent to Jason’s house to investigate the potential threat. The officers were there to look around the house for any pictures of the Senator or evidence of anything planned against the Senator. The local authorities deemed that Jason was not a threat and no further action was taken against him. Jason’s Facebook security settings were set up as private. The private settings mean the posts are treated like a private e-mail amongst friends. (Brashear, Feb 25, 2012) It was the perfect storm for Jason a seemingly harmless post, the subject of the post coming to town in a short time, and the Federal Government monitoring for key words or phrases. The Federal Government only reacted to key words that pinged through their tracking system. The individual privacy rights of Jason were not violated due to the contents of his post and the potential national security risk to the presidential candidate former Senator Santorum.
Jason’s post threw up red flags through the Department of Homeland Security social media monitoring system with the use of one word. Because the post contained the word Santorum, the remaining words became relevant to any investigations that followed. Because the former Senator was a potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party his name...