Leader: Cyber threat hoaxers have to be caught

A man leaves flowers at a small memorial near Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Picture: Getty Images

A man leaves flowers at a small memorial near Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Picture: Getty Images

0
Have your say

The shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where a gunman killed nine people before being killed himself, were horrific.

It is hard to imagine the terror that was caused by the rampage and the grief of the parents of those shot and wounded and the very real fear of every parent who had a child there.

So when threats were made of a similar outrage at Edinburgh it is obvious that students and the university authorities have to take them seriously. All the more so when the same website used by the Oregon killer to signal his intended massacre was the one carrying the threats of a copycat attack in Edinburgh.

Police and university authorities here quickly came to the conclusion that there was “no evidence the threat was credible” or that it was “anything other than an unpleasant hoax”.

But it still caused massive disruption. There was a salutory lesson yesterday that internet posts about attacks cannot be dismissed as a 15-year-old boy from Blackburn was setenced to life imprisonment for inciting terrorist attacks over the internet.

He sent thousands of online messages to an alleged Australian jihadist instructing him to carry out an Islamic State-inspired attack.

The court was told that without the intervention of the authorities there would have been a deadly attack.

Social media and the internet are now a part of our everyday lives, it can carry information from the deeply trivial to the hugely significant. But because it is easy to post and gives everyone the ability to have their views known or their doings known on every conceivable subject it might seem like the cyberworld is a different place from the real world and different rules apply.

They don’t, and they can’t, and all offenders must be prosecuted.