Arrests based on threats made on Twitter or Facebook are nothing new, but they've happened less frequently in the US than in the UK or other countries. Later this week, however, a former college student named Caleb Clemmons will go on trial for a "joke" post he made on his Tumblr back in February. According to Gawker, Clemmons was arrested after making a Tumblr post that said he planned to "shoot up Georgia Southern" (his college) the next day. It went on to ask people to "pass this around to see the affect it has. To see if I get arrested." Within a few hours, Clemmons was tracked down and arrested, and he's been in jail awaiting trial ever since — he was unable to make the $20,000 bail set after his arrest.
While the threat seemed fairly clear and the arrest unsurprising, what's happened since then has been the subject of some controversy. A police investigation found no evidence of any plans to attack the school, and Clemmons owned no guns or any other weapons. In fact, a letter from Georgia Southern University's dean noted that the student body was never alerted because there was "no continuous threat."
Since his arrest, Clemmons has claimed his post was "an experimental literary piece and an art project" but still faces the charge of making terroristic threats via a computer. While there's no doubt that posting such a comment on the internet was incredibly foolish given the sensitivity towards mass school violence since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting late last year, critics have pointed to a case in Texas in which a student actually brought a shotgun to his high school but then had all charges dropped. Of course, that student didn't post threats to the internet, so the cases aren't exactly comparable. Clemmons' trial is set to begin this week, with a possible five-year jail sentence at stake if the former student is convicted.