MIAMI, FL — The FBI is warning kids, parents and schools around the country that it is a federal crime to make a threat on social media, via text or through email.
“It does not matter if the sender was only kidding about the threat,” the agency said Wednesday as classes resumed from a winter vacation in many parts of the country. “A thoughtless remark on social media can mean that a young person may start their adult life in prison and forever be labeled a felon.”
David Bowdich, deputy director of the FBI, said the agency takes every threat seriously.
“Hoax threats disrupt school, waste limited law enforcement resources and put first responders in unnecessary danger,” Bowdich explained. “We also don’t want to see a young person start out adulthood with a felony record over an impulsive social media post.”
FBI Special Agent Michael D. Leverock in Miami said threats are not only disruptive but also place emotional stress on students and staff members. He said the agency investigates and fully analyze each threat to determine its credibility.
“These online threats have consequences because they can cause severe emotional distress to students, school personnel and parents,” Leverock said. “It’s a serious issue.”
The FBI also released the following tips regarding so-called online hoax threats:
- Don’t ever post or send any hoax threats online — period.
- If you are a target of an online threat, alert your local law enforcement immediately.
- If you see a threat of violence posted on social media, immediately contact local law enforcement or your local FBI office. Members of the public can submit a tip to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
- Notify authorities but don’t share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate — this can spread misinformation and cause panic.
- If you are a parent or family member, know that some young people post these threats online as a cry for attention or as a way to get revenge or exert control. Talk to your child about the proper outlet for their stress or other emotions and explain the importance of responsible social media use and the consequences of posting hoax threats.
- Click here for more information and to watch an interview with someone who made a hoax threat.