A Texas teenager has been in jail since March for uttering a terroristic threat while playing League of Legends.
During a League of Legends match this February, one of 18-year-old Justin Carter's opponents called him insane in a Facebook comment. Carter, in response, wrote, "Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still-beating hearts," according to his father Jack, followed by "lol" and "jk," shorthand for "laughing out loud" and "just kidding." But a woman in Canada took the threat seriously: She searched Google and found Carter's old address was near an elementary school, and then called the police.
Carter was first arrested in February and then jailed on March 27, where he has remained ever since, facing up to eight years in prison for making a terroristic threat. "These people are serious," his father told KHOU. "They really want my son to go away to jail for a sarcastic comment that he made."
Some of the enthusiasm behind Carter's prosecution is simply a matter of timing, as he made the statement just a few months after the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children dead. "In light of recent situations, statements such as the one Justin made are taken seriously," an Austin police detective said in a statement.
But his father said Justin doesn't keep up with current events and didn't appreciate the significance of his words. "These kids, they don't realize what they're doing. They don't understand the implications. They don't understand public space," he said.
"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 added.
Carter's friends and family have started an online petition to bring attention to the matter, calling for his release and for the laws regarding "terroristic threats" to be changed and clarified. A hearing on the case is scheduled for July 1.