Take Internet Threats Seriously

asiamcgowenI just read the shocking story of how college student Asia McGowen was gunned down by her stalker Anthony Powell who then killed himself. He had been stalking Asia on YouTube and Facebook, leaving her nasty and threatening comments. He had also made videos about her as well as other videos railing against black women, atheist and other topics. While he used YouTube and Facebook to stalk her, he actually knew Asia from a class at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan.  Since he shot her at point blank range it was likely that she had no idea that Powell was her stalker (they were in a classroom together alone when he shot her).

According to YouTuber infamoustrag, Powell made a video saying that he had a shotgun and was going to use it to kill himself or the object of his affection, Asia. He reported it to Detroit police who were unable to watch the video.

A lot of the focus seems to be on her being on YouTube and Facebook (a lot of blaming the victim) completely disregarding that Powell actually knew McGowen in real life and was obsessed with her.  He knew her from school not Facebook or YouTube.  He most likely would have attempted to do this anyway without use of the internet. While YouTube and Facebook were the method Powell used to harrass McGowan, they could have saved her life if anyone had taken the threats seriously. Most times after incidents like this all the people come out of the woodwork to say “We never thought he’d do something like this,” but in this case it was all over the internet. The internet is not anonymous (even when you register for a site with bogus information they know where you are). Had they complained to YouTube and Facebook they may have been able to get information on the source of the threats to identify this guy before this happened. The police definitely could have gotten this information from Google or Facebook.

I think that we as internet citizens need to be more vigilant when we see threatening or other behavior that can hurt others. The video where the guys say what he’s going to do should have been on the news and police should have been at his door. Save the threatening material on your own computer and don’t trust that it will still be on YouTube, Facebook, MySpace or wherever later. Local police departments are mostly clueless when it comes to the internet so if we really feel that something is going to happen we might have to bug them to death (and hold their hands to understand) to get them involved in a case. There’s a lot that YouTube and Facebook can do as well but many don’t know that if they are contacted by law enforcement they can be compelled to give information about particular users. But I think the most can be done with users being vigilant about threats – take them seriously, report it to the authorities (not just to the service provider) and MAKE them respond.

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  • http://twitter.com/koa/statuses/1519970213 koa (Kenya)

    New blog post: Take Internet Threats Seriously http://tinyurl.com/c235vw

  • http://www.twitter.com/wamurray Bill Murray

    What a sad case. Thanks for your efforts to educate people on such threats and the need to be vigilant about threats over the Internet.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wamurray Bill Murray

    What a sad case. Thanks for your efforts to educate people on such threats and the need to be vigilant about threats over the Internet.