The old saying about “guns don’t kill people, people do” has a lot in common with the use of social media today.
“Social media doesn’t ruin people’s lives, people do.”
We had a textbook example of this in the Verde Valley this past week involving a student at Mingus Union High School.
Over the weekend, the Cottonwood Police Department and MUHS officials were alerted to social media posts in the Cottonwood area about a student planning to “shoot up” Mingus Union High School.
School shootings have become epidemic in the United States. When such a threat is made, police and school officials take it seriously. That was exactly what happened in Cottonwood.
And when both the police and school officials went above and beyond in exercising due diligence, they came to the same conclusion. The student who was reported to have made such threats did no such thing. He is innocent. He did not make any threats about gun violence at school or anywhere else.
Instead, social media postings repeated the message to the point that the lie was perceived as truth for many people in the community. The media of choice for this exercise in character assassination was Snapchat, which rose to prominence because of its self-deleting posts.
For Cottonwood police, this meant the trail had gone cold before they could let the cyber-scent dogs loose.
“Snapchat poses a particularly difficult investigation for law enforcement,” explained Cottonwood PD Sgt. Monica Kuhlt. “The posts disappear after 24 hours once they have been viewed. A few days had passed before we were made aware of the alleged threats.”
Hopefully, the lid on this one will be budged loose in time. Hopefully, there will be serious consequences for the people responsible for trying to ruin this young person’s life.
An incident such as this cannot be dismissed as a youthful joke or a hoax.
This was a criminal act.
It needs to be treated as such.