Federal agents have arrested a man named Terrence McNeil for allegedly inciting terrorist violence online. McNeil expressed support for ISIS and broader jihadist ideology in a number of posts on Tumblr and Twitter. Both Twitter and Tumblr cooperated with federal efforts, providing IP records that allowed agents to trace the accounts back to McNeil himself.
McNeil's interest in ISIS memes and rhetoric seems to have flagged him as a person of interest for federal agents as early as June of this year. One early post reads, "I'm an american by birth not choice. Easily I'm african american and native american so this country has made my people suffer years. Casualty of war. I would gladly take part in an attack on this murderous regime and its people."
On Twitter, company policy seems to have resulted in eight different deactivations for McNeil, leading him to start up nine different accounts in succession. The accounts were all variations on the phrase "lone wolf," which prosecutors have taken as a reference to an ISIS representatives call for "lone offender" attacks in the US.
"I would gladly take part in an attack on this murderous regime."
The last straw for federal agents seems to have been a GIF that McNeil reposted from another Tumblr account, showing "several dozen photographs that purport to be of military personnel, along with their respective name, address and military branch," according to the affidavit. After the photographs, the GIF showed a picture of a gun and a knife with the text, "...and kill them wherever you find them..." According to prosecutors, reblogging that GIF counts as a solicitation to a violent crime, thus justifying today's arrest.
It's unclear whether simply reblogging the GIF qualifies as a solicitation to crime, and the court will have to grapple with that issue as the case proceeds. McNeil's case is also notable for being almost entirely based on online activity. The affidavit justifying his arrest lists more than 50 different posts from his various Tumblr and Twitter accounts, but only minimal physical surveillance of McNeil, detailing his morning commute and various bank accounts linked to his name. As it stands currently, the case rests entirely on McNeil's online persona, and whether it can be seen as inciting tangible violence elsewhere in the world.