When Social Media backfires

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

We have seen various social media disasters from politicians, but imagine when your social media disaster results in an indictment in a US court. That is hwat has happened to Eric Harroun a fool who decided to go fight in Syria and post his exploits all over Facebook. The case also highlights how stupid some laws are, because Harroun has been charged with using a “weapon of mass destruction”…which was an RPG!

Any term that conflates nuclear weapons with any other kind of weapon is bound to be a poor descriptor. But the U.S. government has reached peak absurdity by labeling a rocket-propelled grenade a weapon of mass destruction.

Technically, Eric Harroun, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the rebellion in Syria, has only been charged with using a “destructive device.” (More on him in a second.) But U.S. law isn’t particularly diligent about differentiating dangerous weapons from apocalyptic ones. The affidavit of FBI agent Paul Higginbotham undergirding Harroun’s recent arrest and charge sums it up like this: “There is probable cause to believe that, in or about January 2013 to March 2013, Eric Harroun conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, i.e. a Rocket Propelled Grenade, outside of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2332a(b).” 

Harroun will have his day in court to contest the facts surrounding his case. But federal law has established the absurdity that a rocket-propelled grenade is a weapon of mass destruction. If you follow the rabbit hole of the statute referenced in Higginbotham’s affidavit, any citizen who uses “a weapon of mass destruction outside of the United States shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.” The statutory definition of “weapon of mass destruction” refers to “any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title,” which in turn includes: a “rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces.”

Other weapons of mass destruction, legally speaking: Bombs. Grenades. Mines. Missiles “having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce.”

Never trust politicians to write accurate laws. Be that as it may, Harroun has only himself to blame for the indictment:

Also, for anyone who’s thinking of joining a foreign insurgency, particularly one whose most capable fighters are designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, you should probably think twice about YouTubing and Facebooking your exploits. Social media documentation makes up the preponderance of evidence cited against Harroun. His photo captions are part of the case against him. The law not only conflates rocket-propelled grenades and nuclear weapons, it cares what you call your adventure-porn pictures.

Just goes to prove that people are stupid.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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