Whether your timeline is popping on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and now Tik Tok, social media has been a popular tool used by millions of people all across the world.
“Social media is great because it allows people to connect to folks that they otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see,” said Dr. Barry Smith, professor and chairman of the communications department at Mississippi University for Women.
However, there have been posts out there that some would consider threatening and distasteful.
To avoid anything like this from happening, Smith said it’s best for people to think before typing, because once you hit “SEND,” it’s out there forever.
“Sometimes when somebody has their phone or they’re sitting at a computer, they’re behind a screen so they feel more distant from the things they’re saying, and so they will say things that they wouldn’t normally say,” said Smith.
Many people use social media as a way to exercise their freedom of speech, but that right can have consequences.
“If you say something hateful and then your boss sees it, well your boss might fire you, or your neighbors might say, we don’t want you coming over to the birthday party,” said Smith.
“The way the law is written, if you get on social media and you insult somebody or harm their personal character or threaten to hurt them, then you very well could be charged with a crime even though you claim it’s your first amendment right,” said Jeff Hosford, WCBI Legal Analyst. “At that point then you have to go to court and defend yourself and hope the courts agree that you are within your first amendment right.”
Hosford said if a person is caught making a threatening post they can be charged with cyber-stalking, which is a felony.
“Without a restraining order which means basically you’ve done it and you’ve been arrested, it carries up to two years in jail or two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine,” Hosford explained. “If there’s a restraining order that’s been issued against you for such activity and you continue to do it, then it carries up to five years and up to a $10,000 fine.”
Hosford said anyone, young or old, can be charged with cyber-stalking.
If a juvenile was charged their case would be handled in youth court.