Will Pittsburgh shooting change how the law regards weblogs?

A local shooting has caused a lot of national concern, and has again raised the issue of whether or not local and federal officials should police Internet blogs in an effort to prevent crime.

Similar concerns were raised after the Columbine shootings in 1999, in which one of the perpetrators made death threats against other students and proclaimed his hatred for society on his personal blog.

The shooting, which took the lives of three and left many others wounded, still has Pittsburgh reeling and wondering if such a crime could have been prevented.  This is especially the case as the alleged shooter, George Sodini, was quite vocal about his desire to kill on his web site.  While his site was taken down following the shooting, in which he also took his own life, the New York Times reported that he had posted details of the attack.  While the blog was taken down afterward, ABC News posted much of its content.

On the local talk radio shows, many Pittsburghers vented their frustration as well as their sadness, and some questioned whether law enforcement should police blogs in the same way as the NSA monitors for terrorist activity.  Sodini, for example, posted as far back as January 6th of his intent to bring loaded weapons with him and hinted at his desire to kill.  On August 3 Sodini made a very clear threat, stating that “Tomorrow is the big day” and that he “will not be embarrassed because, well, I will be dead.”

While such efforts would certainly appease our desire, born out of grief, to do something, many questions remain.  Would such activity really prevent tragedies from happening, or would the number of “false positives” overburden an already taxed police force?  While it certainly seems that Sodini was a ticking time bomb after the fact, would his postings alone be enough to warrant arrest, even if no crime had been committed?

Answers aren’t forthcoming, unfortunately.  Only more sadness and loss after another senseless act of violence.

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Posted on August 6, 2009, in Local, Tech News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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