IF it was just one unenlightened teenager, perhaps we could chalk it up to the innocence of youth. But when more than a dozen teens around the world jump on the bomb threat bandwagon, clearly there’s trouble brewing in the Twitterverse.
In the post-9/11 world, most kids learn pretty early on that it’s a bad idea to make threats, especially at an airline. Yet, as our interactions increasingly move into the digital sphere, there appears to be a disconnect between the perceived innocuousness of what’s said in the social media realms, and the harsh reality of what will be taken seriously in the real world.
At least, that seems to be the case with a 14-year-old Dutch girl known as Sarah (aka @queendementriax_ on Twitter).
Don’t bother checking her Twitter account; it was disconnected on Sunday night, shortly after she gained 20,000 followers, and 15 minutes of internet fame. In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of her threat and the flurry of retractions that followed:
Sarah: “@AmericanAir hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”
American Airlines: “@queendemetriax_ Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP Address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”
Sarah: “@AmericanAir pls pls pls can I do something to make it good pls I’m so scared I’m just a 14 year old white girl I’m not a terrorist pls.”
In subsequent tweets, Sarah added that she was “so sorry”.
“I’m scared now,” she said in one tweet, and noted in another: “I was joking and it was my friend not me. Take her IP address not mine.”
“I’m just a fangirl pls I don’t have evil thoughts and plus I’m a white girl,” she tweeted as the internet pounced on the Twitter exchange, propelling it to viral proportions.
In one of her last tweets, Sarah began to fluctuate between fear and delight, noting that she always wanted to be famous, “but I meant like Demi Lovato famous, not Osama bin laden famous”.
Perhaps Sarah is finally on her way; the girl’s mug shot was taken last week in Rotterdam.
Dutch police arrested the girl last week as a result of an independent investigation, and not at the prompting of American Airlines or the FBI. The exact charges, if any, Sarah faces under Dutch law for “posting an alarming announcement”, remain unknown.
If there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this, and there most certainly is, it was lost on the dozens of copycats who’ve followed Sarah’s lead with threats of their own:
@ShyyLicious: “@AmericanAir I have a bomb under the next plane to take off.”
@nonfreak: “@Politie_Rdam @AmericanAir release her or I’ll bomb your HQ. you gonna arrest me now?”
In the pre-social media, pre-9/11 world, just about the worst thing your kid could do was prank call emergency services. Now, they can threaten a plane, an airport, and a police station in Rotterdam, all with the click of a button. And, just like that fire engine that showed up out of an abundance of caution, so too will the police, as the case of Sarah proved all too well.
That Sarah was clearly a teenager with a Demi Lovato fangirl Twitter account is beside the point. That she thought being “a white girl” would somehow fend off the authorities is downright offensive. The fact is that her prank, if that’s what it was, has spurred dozens of copycats who are now trolling Twitter, issuing myriad threats and forcing airline employees, police officers, and perhaps, even the FBI, to waste countless hours better spent dealing with the all too real threats they face on a daily basis.