You can claim your retweets aren’t endorsements, but if you’re retweeting known terrorists on a regular basis, it may just be used that as evidence to arrest you.
A detailed report by the Huffington Post describes the myriad ways in which the FBI is ramping up its monitoring of social media, including, yes, busting people for their ill-conceived retweets. Among recent terrorism cases that made use of Twitter, officials brought criminal charges against 17 year old Ali Shukri Amin of Virginia, whose past tweets include instructions describing how to use Bitcoin to support ISIS. Bilal Abood, 37, was arrested in May after making a false statement to the FBI about his Twitter activity, which included retweeting information on and and ‘pledging obedience’ to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Context still matters a lot when using Twitter evidence to bring criminal charges. Said FBI director James Comey to the Huffington Post:
“I can imagine an academic sharing something with someone as part of research would have a very different mental intent than someone who is sharing that in order to try and get others to join an organization or engage in an act of violence. The government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with a criminal intent to violate the statute.”
In other words, simply retweeting terrorist organisations isn’t enough to get you arrested, but it might be enough to get the FBI to dig into your background.
Indeed, it’d be worrying if the FBI didn’t get suspicious and follow up in certain cases. An extensive review of Arafat Nagi’s Twitter profile showed that over half of the 278 handles he follows feature profiles of ISIS flags, photos of al-Baghdadi or Osama bin Laden, photos of recent terrorist beheadings, or other terrorism-related images. Nagi was arrested last week, after making statements to law enforcement officials that were ‘inconsistent’ with said account.
Bottom line is, if you’re retweeting grisly beheading videos or statements by terrorist leaders, you’re going to start raising eyebrows. Read the full report over at the Huffington Post.
Top image via Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press