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Husson University Legal Professor discusses social media and mass shootings

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 7:43 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - When it comes to social media and mass shooting suspects who post alarming things prior to their crimes, where do police stand?

We spoke with John Michaud, Husson University Legal Studies Director, about how possible warning signs on social media factor in to mass shootings.

He says many times, like in the school shooting in Texas, the suspect has reportedly posted alarming things like weapons and proclamations of violence.

But, what can be done?

Michaud says legislation is chasing technology but hasn’t caught up yet.He says people can alert the authorities, but they can’t come and take weapons based on social media posts.

However, it is illegal to make threats.

The question is, should police have more control over social media?

“Can I take your gun because you made a threat like that? You’re a 21 year old male, and you posted something like that. Am I allowed to come in your houses and take your gun? You didn’t threaten anyone, you threatened to do something bad. So, how much of a leap are people willing to take? We have to do something. We can’t just not do anything because that’s not fixing it,” says Michaud.

Both suspects in the shootings the recent shooting in Buffalo and Texas made alarming posts prior to turning to violence.

Michaud says there is a lot of anger in our country, and there has been for a long time.

He says there are outlets for just about anyone to find others who fuel that anger.

When it comes to questionable posts, what can legally be done?

“How invasive do we want our investigative agencies to be? How intrusive you know, do we want to get to a place where law enforcement reads all of everybody’s social media? Are we ready for that? I think not. Inertia is not an option. We have to do something,” says Michaud.

Michaud says in his experience, people don’t always want to say something if there are warning signs because they don’t want to get involved.

Or, it’s a family member or a friend who doesn’t want to report a loved one.

He adds there also aren’t any laws holding people accountable for not reporting questionable posts.

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