This story is compelling for a number of reasons which include the potential ramifications, the FBI considers retweets as endorsements with the emphases squarely pointed at those containing IS statements. This theory has been proven again by the arrest of an individual by the name of Ali Saleh who is a 22-year-old Queens resident. His detainment followed an FBI investigation into his attempts to join ISIS; the reported mentioned evidence included the tracking of Twitter related activity by Saleh.
According to information contained and submitted within the complaint to the Federal Court in Brooklyn. FBI special agent Bret Luhmann stated that Saleh had attempted on a number of occasions to travel to Syria with the aim of joining the terrorist group. Among the social media activity which has been collected for evidence purposes from this individual includes the sentence “I’m ready to die (for ISIS) Prison is nothing” Saleh proclaimed while retweeting a message which was posted by another user.
On the face of it Saleh has been arrested for more than numerous incendiary retweets after being placed under the microscope by law enforcement, this includes alleged active attempts to travel to Yemen and Istanbul by booking a seat for a flight which he later decided to miss. The problem lays with the FBI and its interpretation, many users tweet hashtags and statements which are connected to terrorist acts for a variety of legitimate reasons, these could include informing followers of brutal acts which have been covered by many news outlets or other user experiences, to protest against such behaviour or simply to parody the situation.
Take the aftermath of the arrest of convicted Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a substantial amount of people retweeted the social media account of said person in a kind of expose to highlight the individual behind such tragic actions. To further convey the ambiguity, a 17-year-old Virginia resident was arrested this summer of 2015, after frequently retweeting flattering statements about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Now, let’s take an extreme situation, how would the FBI or any other agency react to a user who felt seriously depressed and conveyed suicidal thoughts through tweets and phrase retweets, would they be considered ISIS sympathisers or in imminent danger or going on a shooting spree, if their intentions were considered to be terrorist related? This is the ambiguity, there needs to be more evidence which is garnered before a person is suspected of malicious intentions.
Logically, and I know governments struggle with this concept, you would only be arrested after a build up of various intelligence actions from a person who was under suspicion, otherwise, there is going to be a hell of a lot of people arrested if it is based on certain tweets, which no agency in the world has the resources to deal with on a continuous basis.
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