What is law enforcement’s role in monitoring social media posts?

May 8, 2023, 8:30 PM

social media posts...

FILE - The Twitter application is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. An alleged gunman who killed eight in Texas left behind alarming social media posts. should law enforcement have seen this tragedy coming?(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Eight people were killed during a shooting at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas over the weekend. National Media is reporting the alleged gunman left a steady stream of hundreds of violent and alarming social media posts. With so many posts, should law enforcement have seen this tragedy coming?

Retired FBI Special Agent Greg Rogers joins Dave and Dujanovic co-hosts Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic. He joins the show to explain what law enforcement officers can do legally to catch these digital red flags.

Does the first amendment protect social media posts?

Beginning the conversation, Dujanovic asks Rogers about how to distinguish between digital red flags and somebody’s first amendment right to post on social media.

“It’s a tricky issue. Before it becomes any kind of federal offense or an offense in most states, you have to make an actual threat,” Rogers tells Dujanovic and Noriega. “So, someone can get online and say horrific things that are, you know, racist and offensive. But, those [posts] are protected … if and until they actually make a threat, it’s not a criminal violation.”

According to Rogers, this doesn’t mean law enforcement can’t do anything. However, it does make things much more complicated, as law enforcement can’t arrest someone for being offensive online.

“All you can do is interview them,” he says. “If you interview them or if you go to talk to them, they can say they don’t want to talk to you and that’s as far as that goes.”

In order for law enforcement to take action, Rogers says a social media post has to be a “pretty direct threat.”

“You have to actually specifically say you intend to do something, for it to satisfy the statute and indicate that you were going to do something,” he says.

Listen to the full segment below.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Related: Investigators reveal more details about the gunman who killed 8 people at a Texas mall — including possible right-wing extremism

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What is law enforcement’s role in monitoring social media posts?