Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facebook Poll

Very recently, a third party facebook poll popped up asking if president Obama deserved to be killed. The answers possible were Yes, No, Maybe, and Yes If He Cuts My Health Care.

Obviously, this poll is just another poll written by someone who both dislikes and misunderstands (or wants others to misunderstand) Obama's health care plan, likely written as a response to other polls on facebook that may argue a different way (in a much more extreme way). Because of its somewhat inappropriate implications, facebook removed the poll as soon as it was notified. Additionally, the user who created the poll was suspended from the web site.

Personally, I don't find this sort of web offense that serious, as I've seen way too many absurd goings-on on the internet to consider this significant.However, what interested me is that the US Secret Service is getting involved in researching the origin of the poll, in order to make sure there is no threat to the president's life.

What I think is strange about putting resources towards investigating a facebook poll is that there is a lot of anti-Obama media that makes similar harsh claims about the president's policies. Because of peoples' increased worry of what changes might come with Obama's presidency, and media misinformation, a bit of panic is understandable among some groups people.

At some Obama protests, there have been some incidents where some individuals protesting have signs with equally ludicrous or desperate claims or charges about the president, but typically these sorts of things are not looked in to specifically because they are understandable occurrences or perhaps thought of as unimportant.

Overall, the news story made me wonder, why is this expression of an idea treated differently for being on the internet? Does it being on the internet make it more potentially threatening? Should it be treated as seriously as an inflammatory poster or slogan, or does something about it make it more serious?


  1. I think the thing about the internet is that we all believe what we say is anonymous and not that it's worse but that it's more secretive. If someone has a sign the police can take the person from the protest on the spot. But when its on the internet it takes investigating and anything that involves more work tends to be thought of as more serious, generally obviously. Also with assinations in the past and the heightening of sercuirty in every aspect of all of our lives, it only seems normal that the President's security is heightened as well. It's probably just standard procedure anything with that kind of the a threat is going to be checked up on quite quickly.

  2. I find it ridiculous that someone would waste his or her time with coming up with such a hateful poll. For gosh sakes, Americans need to learn how to voice opinions without being unintelligent about it! There are so many more compelling ways to communicate disagreement rather than resorting to such threatening words. No matter how "panicked" these groups are or claim to be, there is never an excuse for threatening death to anyone (let alone an important leader!).

  3. Yeah. On one hand I kind of like the saying, "The internet is not serious business," which is a sort of sarcastic quote claiming that a lot of the bizarre or terrible things that show up on the internet tend to end up being teenagers joking around and are posted with the intention of them not being taken seriously. But some "jokes" are not funny at all, some people posting hoax bomb threats or making (perhaps empty, but potentially scary) threats against individuals or families whose contact information is tracked down by groups of people. Things like cyberbullying have very serious outcomes, as well, although cyberbullying may be different from merely a mean-spirited, pranking, profane, or critical message, depending on how you look at it.

    What I think is kind of confusing is where the line is drawn. What's the difference between cyberbullying and a highly critical message or an internet prank? With a recent increase in cyber crimes against US intelligence, how much should we distinguish between 'jokingly' suggesting something dangerous and an actual threat?

    What should be ignored and what should be prosecuted? I agree with Morgan that something about the president is wise to look into, in many ways, but what about similar sentiments that are equally inappropriately expressed in other parts of the internet-- how do we make a facebook poll out to be more serious than a comment on a blog or web site elsewhere?

  4. I think things on-line are taken more seriously because they are more visible, especially website like Facebook. Even if the poll-writer had no intention of causing Obama any physical harm, he/she could have put the idea in a more violent person's head. Many people will never have certain ideas without outside exposure to them.

    Also, we hear more about investigation into things that happened on-line, because so many people are on-line and see the threats. If you have some idea what is going on, you are more likely to pay attention when you hear about an investigation into it.

  5. Hi Michelle,

    Great to see a lively discussion regarding your post. In the future, think of how you might more tightly focus this writing -- you actually cover a lot of ground, including speech at rallies, but with no specifics. You said, "there have been some incidents...", but without an example, we are left wondering whether these "incidents" threatened the life of the President?

    Remember, according to your linked article, the Secret Service is required to investigate these threats, no matter how trivial these FB posts may seem.