Updated Mon, Jul 01, 2013 by Martuk
Anyone that has ever played a competitive online game knows just how crude and sarcastic the smack talking can get between players. But 19-year old League of Legends player Justin Carter has found out just how paranoid and serious the world has become in regards to joking about certain topics. Last February Justin, who at the time was 18-years-old, ended up in an argument with another player following a League of Legends game. The argument spilled over onto to Facebook in which Justin’s father, Jack Carter, explained the dialogue exchanged between the two as follows:
“Someone had said something to the effect of 'Oh you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head,’ to which he replied 'Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,’ and the next two lines were lol and jk.," said Jack Carter in an interview to KVUE.
If you're reading this story you undoubtedly know that “LOL” is "Laugh Out Loud" and “JK” is "Just Kidding" from casual Internet and gaming terminology. If not, turn in your online gamer badge at the door.
Jack stated that after the comments were posted by his son that a Canadian woman noticed them and managed to locate his address up on Google. Realizing that that he lived about a mile from a school, she notified police and Justin was arrested. He now faces the possibility of an 8 year sentence in prison for making a terrorist threat in what was, it seems, little more than a very poor choice of words on Facebook.
While it’s understandable that in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and the raised fear of terror attacks across the country authorities are working at an increased awareness, this was a dumb, dumb thing to say, but the response also seems like a bit of an overreaction. Justin Carter was arrested on February 14th but not questioned until March 13th according to his family. The only item reportedly seized when his home was searched a month after his arrest was his personal computer. He has been in jail since that time.
Justin Carter’s family has started a petition to try and have him released and gain support for a rollback of certain anti-terrorism laws. The petition, which can be viewed here, currently has over 30k signatures.
In the meantime, you may want to choose your words more carefully when trash-talking or even making sarcastic jokes in jest to avoid this sort of situation happening to you. And for the love of all things holy, stop joking about shooting up schools. Social media outlets and even online video games don't respond well to the tone of these comments, something that 18-year-old Oxford, England resident Thomas Frongillo, a player of an unnamed Jagex game, also found out in April when Jagex employees noticed, and submitted, a chat transcript to authorities containing comments made by Frongillo that included, among other things, comments about shooting up his school, which led to his arrest. He too claimed that the comments were made in jest.
In this day and age of an always-connected world, free speech can often come with a price. And as previously indicated with the Jagex incident, you're online gaming conversations are not exactly confidential.
There is no arguing that the comments were just a completely stupid thing to say, especially after the Sandy Hook tragedy, but do you feel that the punishment fits the text-based and victimless crime in this case? This seems like little more than a very poor choice of words during a simple spout of trash-talking following a gaming session, but not something worthy of a possible 8-year and life-ruining stay in prison. In contrast, an 18-year-old in the same state was sentenced to 8 years in prison for pleading guilty to the murder of a 15-year-old last year. So a Facebook comment (admittedly a stupid one) gets you arrested under a terrorist charge carrying a possible 8-years in prison while admitting that you actually killed someone gets you the same. Let that sink in a minute.
Justified or not? Tell us what you think below.