Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vague threats are not a problem

This link just caught my eye on Twitter (via @mkhammer):
Tolerance: Twitter user threatening to kill Glenn Beck
The user said "If 10,000 people follow this Twitter by the end of January I will literally assassinate Glenn Beck."

My first thought was that there was no way this guy's account would be left standing.  But if you read Twitter's policy on violent threats, the tweet does not seem to be a violation of their Terms Of Service.
What is a violent threat?
Violent threats are against Twitter's Terms of Service. Twitter doesn't allow violent threats or content directed toward people if it is SPECIFIC, PHYSICAL, and VIOLENT. A violent threat must contain the following:
  • Specificity (time and location where violent event is said to take place)
  • Physicality (description of what is to take place physically)
  • Violence (the event described intended to do harm)
An update must contain all three of the items described above to qualify as a Terms of Service violation.

If you feel there is immediate danger we urge you to call 911, or your local emergency services, at once.
Since this user is not detailing the plan, it's technically not a TOS violation.

The more I learn about stuff like this, the more I want to toss the computers out the window and join the Amish.  I'm sure that Twitter had plenty of legal help when writing up their terms of service and so they probably have very logical reasons for the policy being as specific as it is.  But it just feels wrong that vague threats are tolerated.  But wrong and illegal are not always one and the same.

It will be interesting to see if this person's account stays open.

~~Code Monkey

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