Last summer, an Alabama man made the foolhardy choice of threatening President Barack Obama via Twitter. After getting a visit from the Secret Service, 26-year-old Jarvis Britton apologized for his outbursts. However, a second round of threats this past September landed Britton a year in federal prison.
The New York Times reported on the fate of the Birmingham native, who claimed he was drunk when he made the death threats. “Let's Go Kill the President,” tweeted Britton. “I think we could get the president with cyanide! #MakeItSlow.”
In June, Britton was prosecuted in his home state, and because of his repeat offenses, he left officials no choice but to hit him with a jail sentence. “Because of the repeated threats on Twitter, we took him seriously,” said prosecutor Joyce White Vance, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Britton wasn't alone in using the fast-moving social media network to hurl violent words towards Obama. Donte Jamar Sims of Charlotte, N.C. was sentenced to six months after tweeting he wanted to “assassinate president Obama.” Daniel Temple of Ohio is awaiting a sentence after tweeting threats of a similar sort as well.
The Secret Service tracks Twitter and other social media channels for such threats, with a group of agents known as the Internet Threat Desk. In 2011, the agency created a Twitter account specifically aimed at reporting threats such as the ones made by Britton and the others as well.
“We get information from many sources. Social media is one of them,” said agency spokesman Brian Leary. “We have the right and certainly the obligation to determine a person's intent.”
Photo: New York Times/Twitter