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Teenagers sent to jail over Facebook, other online comments

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 11:08 a.m. MDT

Cameron DAmbrosio (Screenshot from rt.com) Cameron DAmbrosio (Screenshot from rt.com)

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but as some teenagers are learning, words can actually hurt you.

Within the past year, at least three teenagers have landed themselves in jail because of Facebook and other online comments that have been labeled as terroristic threats.

Cameron D'Ambrosio, a high school student from the Boston area faces up to 20 years in jail after “disturbing verbiage” was reported on his Facebook page.

“He posted a threat in the form of rap where he mentioned the White House, the Boston Marathon bombing and said, ‘Everybody you will see what I am going to do, kill people,’ ” said Methuen, Mass., Police Chief Joe Solomon in an interview with the Valley Patriot.

Facebook (Deseret News Archive) Facebook (Deseret News Archive)

D'Ambrosio spent over a month in jail before being released.

In another incident in October of 2012, then-19-year-old Josh Pillault of Illinois was arrested for threatening to destroy a high school, and specifically referred to Columbine High School, while playing an online fantasy game.

As reported in The Clarion Ledger, Pillault’s lawyer said his comment was “idle or careless talk, exaggeration or something said in joking,” but it has kept him incarcerated for about nine months. Pillault faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to thedailycaller.com.

Justin Carter (Screenshot from rt.com) Justin Carter (Screenshot from rt.com)

Another young man in Texas faces a similar situation. While playing an online video game, then-18-year-old Justin Carter engaged in an argument with another online player, who told Carter he was crazy. Carter sarcastically responded by saying saying he was crazy and that he was going to shoot kindergarten children followed by “lol” and “jk.”

Carter’s comment was reported to authorities, who took him into custody in February on charges of terrorist threats with a $500,000 bond, according to cnn.com.

"He says he's really sorry. He just got caught up in the moment of the game and didn't think about the implications," said Carter’s father, Jack, in an interview.

According to cnn.com, Carter’s comments came about two months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and authorities viewed it as a terrorist threat, which can carry a sentence of up to eight years in jail in Texas.

Many see the extended incarcerations as excessive.

“If they arrested every kid who said dumb stuff like this on the Internet/Xbox/Play Station live, I'm sure many thousands of children would be in prison,” said Jay, an online commenter.

In the meantime, Carter's father is sharing this message about social media use:

"If I can just help one person to understand that social media is not a playground, that when you go out there into social media, when you use Facebook, when you use Twitter, when you go out there and make comments on news articles, and the things you are saying can and will be used against you," he said.

Abby Stevens is an intern for the deseretnews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company