Recently, the popular social networking site Facebook had a poll asking whether President Obama should be assassinated. The responses were: yes, no, maybe, and if he cuts my health care. Over 700 people answered the survey before officials at Facebook removed it from the Web site. It was removed at the urging of the US Secret Service, which investigated the matter, just as it investigates all threats against the President.
You may not know it, but merely threatening to kill or hurt the President is a federal crime. It doesn't matter if the person actually means it or if the threat is made on paper, the telephone, or over the Internet, like the Facebook poll.
The President isn't the only one protected from cyber threats. You are, too.
Federal and State Laws
A federal law makes it a crime to threaten to hurt someone else if the threat is made through "interstate commerce." Generally, that covers any threat sent through the US Postal Service, e-mail, or otherwise over the Internet. Many states have similar laws. A person convicted of committing this crime may be fined, sent to jail, or both.
As you can see, cyber threats are serious business.
Don't Do It
Think carefully before posting something on a Web site or blog and before sending that e-mail when you're angry or upset. Understand that you may be breaking federal or state laws, and the consequences may be severe.
The Secret Service's investigation of the Facebook poll ended happily for some, and unhappily for others. The Secret Service tracked down the person who created the poll - a juvenile. His or her name, age, and address were not disclosed by the Secret Service. Even though it could, the Service isn't pressing criminal charges because agents determined that the kid didn't have any real intention of hurting the President. The child made a "mistake," according to one agent.