Police: Tough to Distinguish Online Rants, Threats

The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, package bomber and school shootings have put police in a bind as threats on social media become an everyday occurrence.

Houston police union president Joe Gamaldi is all for free speech, but says social media has blurred the line when it comes to online rants or actual threats of violence.

“They'll be sent over to the District Attorney's office to decide did this person cross a line to where they were harassing an individual, or did the threat they made online constitute a real threat that charges could be filed on,” he says.

HPD investigators are working overtime to determine what is and isn't credible.

“There are so many different social media platforms now that we have to keep an eye on, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat or Reddit,”says Gamaldi.  “It's becoming very difficult to, number one monitor everything, and number two, actually determining when someone has crossed a line and when they haven't.”

Gamaldi says all they can do is treat it on a case-by-case basis.

“One post may be enough that somebody could get a charge on them, or it could 100 posts that don't quite meet the standard,” he says.  “Or it could be enough directed at one person to be harassment.”

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