by Mike Masnick from the free-speech? dept on Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 @ 8:17AM
We were just discussing how some in law enforcement are overreacting to “threats” on Facebook, and someone in the comments pointed us to the case of Brandon Raub, which we had been unfamiliar with. Raub, a former Marine, posted some of his concerns about the government to his Facebook page, along with some rap lyrics. Raub’s views definitely fall into what many consider to be conspiracy theory territory — claiming 9/11 was an inside job, talking about the Illuminati controlling the world, etc. He also did make vague references to the idea that a “revolution is coming” and that a “civil war” was coming — and even said that “I’m starting the revolution. I’m done waiting.” The only directly “violent” thing he posted — which gets covered in all of the press about Raub’s situation — is the line: “‘Sharpen up my axe; I’m here to sever heads.” Of course, what nearly everyone who quotes that line leaves out is that it’s a lyric to the rap song Bring Me Down by the group Swollen Members.
Either way, it seems that these statements on his Facebook page resulted in him being detained in a psychiatric ward. A recent hearing ended with a decision that he needs to stay there for another 30 days. While government officials say he wasn’t arrested, the video footage of law enforcement officials handcuffing him and pushing him into a police car sure looks like an arrest:
It appears that a lot of folks have been speaking out about this — with reasonable concern over whether or not the government is monitoring (private) Facebook pages, as was the case with Raub’s page. Of course, it’s more likely that some of his Facebook friends were somewhat concerned and “reported” his page. There’s been a lot of talk about Raub’s case — especially in libertarian circles — and many of them do ignore some of the statements he made that could at least raise some concerns from some people, though the context matters a great deal.
That said, many others are quite reasonably concerned that a few comments involving conspiracy theories and angry rap lyrics can get one carted off by the government to a psychiatric ward for over a month. In an interview from the ward, Raub notes that he’d actually been leaning towards re-enlisting right before all of this happened.
No matter what, the situation raises some serious questions about free speech rights with regards to social networks these days. While I don’t have an issue with people investigating the details of a situation if comments could reasonably be interpreted to be a possible warning sign of a threat, it’s troubling how these same comments could be taken out of context and mean nothing in terms of an actual threat. The fact that he ends up in a psych ward against his and his family’s own best wishes is, at the very least, a big concern.