With two stories in the past two days of sarcastic ‘“tweets” being taken seriously and landing the account-holders in various forms of trouble, it’s time to raise the alarm: Be careful what you tweet.
In the first case, originally reported Monday by UK newspaper The Sun, 26 year-old Irish bartender Leigh Van Bryan was blocked from entering the United States for a trip due to tweets he had posted in the weeks before embarking reading “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America,” and “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”
“Destroy,” is common UK slang for partying and the “diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up” tweet was a quote from Family Guy, according to The Sun.
Bryan told the Sun that he and his travel companion Emily Bunting were intercepted by U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) upon arrival and refused entry to the U.S.
The DHS agents reportedly questioned Bryan and Bunting for five hours, handcuffed them, placed them in a van “with illegal immigrants” and “locked [them] up overnight,” before sending them back to the UK. Bryan told The Sun, “they were treated like terrorists,” as the paper paraphrased him.
On Tuesday, British travel industry group Abta issued a warning about the incident to the BBC.
As the BBC reported:
“Posting statements in a public forum which could be construed as threatening - in this case saying they are going to “destroy” somewhere - will not be viewed sympathetically by US authorities,” [Abta] told the BBC.
“In the past we have seen holidaymakers stopped at airport security for ‘joking’ that they have a bomb in their bag, thoroughly questioned and ending up missing their flights, demonstrating that airport security staff do not have a sense of humour when it comes to potential risk.”
Meanwhile, Gawker on Tuesday reported of an entirely separate tweet that led its author, a California police officer, into trouble — this time with the hacker group Anonymous.
As Gawker reported:
Richmond Police Department Sgt. Mike Rood became a target after he offered his support on Twitter to UFC President Dana White, who has been engaged in an entertaining feud with Anonymous over his vocal anti-piracy stance.
The escalating conflict between people under the hacker banner Anonymous and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was sparked by the takedown of the UFC website on January 22 by hackers unaffiliated with Anonymous in retaliation for the UFC’s support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). White has responded by bashing Anonymous on Twitter and in video interviews, and Anonymous returned fire by hacking and posting White’s personal contact information online.
Meanwhile, Rood, whose Twitter account name was “@Fan1UFC,” tweeted several times at Dana White on January 26, slamming Anonymous and encouraging White’s crusade against Anonymous hackers. One of Rood’s tweets read: “Get those hacking f***ers. I’m a copy in the bay area CA. I would go at them with both guns!”
In retaliation, Anonymous hacked and “doxed” Rood, that is — obtained and dumped his personal information online —- posting screenshots of his tweets as well as actual photos of his car (license plate: Fan1UFC) and badge. The Anonymous users encouraged their followers on Twitter to complain on the Richmond Police Department Facebook page that one of the agency’s officers was threatening to shoot people on Twitter.
In response, the Richmond Police Department is opening an investigation into Rood, according to The Mercury News.
As the paper reported:
Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan would not confirm the identity of the officer, citing state privacy protections, or discuss particulars of the case. He said the department received a flood of complaints beginning Monday evening.
“We are well aware of the response people have had to the situation,” Gagan said. “We are opening an investigation, and we will get to the bottom of it. If there were policy violations, we will deal with it appropriately.”
Meanwhile, the Richmond Police Department disabled commenting on its Facebook page, The Next Web reported.
The incidents come, coincidentally enough, at a time when Twitter itself is undergoing renewed scrutiny due to its announcement that it will begin selectively “withholding” tweets on a country-by-country basis when legally compelled to by local government authorities. But based on the above incidents, it seems as though withheld tweets are among the least threatening things Twitter users have to worry about these days.