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Forum moderator saves school from attack (bystander effect)

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posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 05:18 PM
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So JP Neufeld in Canada, a moderator in a gaming internet board, saw a post by a member of that board in the UK which declared that he was going to set fire to his school and alerted the police.


The incident on Tuesday morning, which involved a high school in Attleborough, a market town 85 miles northeast of London, occurred at a time of growing concern about the role of Internet chat rooms and other forums in giving a platform to disturbed young people with resentments that eventuate in attacks on schools and other targets. In some fatal school attacks in the United States and elsewhere, the assailants’ use of Web forums to air festering grievances has been seen as part of the process that led to the assaults.

In the Attleborough case, the teenager’s use of a Web forum to announce his plan appears to have been the step that made it possible for the attack to be foiled.

Still more notable, the first alert to the police in Norfolk, the largely rural county where Attleborough is located, came in a telephone call from a 21-year-old student in Montreal, more than 3,200 miles away, after he read the posting threatening the school attack while eating his breakfast in a university dormitory. NYT

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


The nature of the internet obviously allows for these types of events to take place and in fact they are not that uncommon. I remember reading many a story about potential horrors being prevented when myspace and other site users have alerted authorities as to pending crimes as posted by disgruntled students.

JP's response as to why he felt it was important to alert the authorities seems like logical common sense.


“If somebody was standing on a street corner and said, ‘I’m going to go and blow up my school,’ somebody would report it to the police,” Mr. Neufeld said. “In that sense, the Internet is just another public space, where people have to keep their eyes and ears open.” NYT

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


But if we were standing on the side of said street, or even more importantly on the boards of ATS, would we really report it?

This is addressed in a fascinating interview with Mr. JP Neufeld with NPR's "On the Media:"

The Long Arm of the Law

It is not that long a piece (5:21) and I would encourage everyone to listen to it before responding to this post.

The question is if and how the bystander affect ...


The bystander effect is a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely proportional to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.


... is applicable to internet boards and forums.

Apparently this post was seen by the entire board and only JP and two other members thought to alert the police.

This is further discussed in an equally fascinating NPR piece on the "Bystander Effect:"

The Witnesses That Didn't

What would we as members do if we saw something similar here on ATS?

What if the the threat declaration was more subtle, or perhaps non-violent but still outside the bounds of the law?

Sure we have a T&C in place that would induce the removal of such a post and perhaps even the banning of the OP but that hardly suffices if the purpose is to prevent a crime.

Do we as individual members make our own determination as to what crimes are "bad" enough to report and ignore the "I'm starting a revolution" thread simply because we may be in agreement with the OP's premise?

These are honest questions by the way, I am writing this post as I myself am considering the possibilities.

One thing struck a cord with me though, a statement made by JP Neufeld towards the end of his interview. Apparently he has been flooded with angry and abusive feedback by a great number of the site's members berating him and accusing him of acting like a "white knight" snitch. The implication being that somehow the freedom to post anonymously whatever the content supersedes any potential consequence of such declarations. A sort of extreme and distorted defense of freedom of speech on the internet.

So it seems that what looks to me like an obvious act of concern and good will is by some interpreted as an affront to their liberty.

Is it really so?



Edit to change title to add pizzazz.


[edit on 28 Mar 2009 by schrodingers dog]




posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 06:09 PM
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Originally posted by schrodingers dog

What would we as members do if we saw something similar here on ATS?

What if the the threat declaration was more subtle, or perhaps non-violent but still outside the bounds of the law?

Sure we have a T&C in place that would induce the removal of such a post and perhaps even the banning of the OP but that hardly suffices if the purpose is to prevent a crime.


Wasn't there a former ATS member who was responsible for a school shooting a couple of years ago? They posted hints at what they were going to do but somehow slipped by folks' attention and went on to carry out the threat



posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 06:11 PM
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Good for him! If he hadn't said anything, the people who are complaining now would be complaining because he "allowed" something terrible to happen. If you don't want people telling on you (or your chat room peeps) then don't claim you are going to cause destruction. Simple.




posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 07:06 PM
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reply to post by citizen smith
 


I was thinking of that case myself, at the time I had read some of his posts and I did not saw in them any menace to society, so there was no reason for any interference from me.

I have thought about that several times, and that is one of the reasons I try to understand what people are saying on their posts, and even if they post silly things I try not to make them feel bad but instead I try to see things like they see.

How would I react if I saw someone saying he was going to burn his school? Not being a mod I have no way of knowing where people live, so I could not make much about it, just warn a mod and talk to him to see if I could understand him.

PS: the ATS member was Weise.

Edit: it was almost exactly 4 years ago, on March 21 2005.

[edit on 28/3/2009 by ArMaP]



posted on Mar, 28 2009 @ 09:46 PM
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Originally posted by ArMaP
reply to post by citizen smith
 


I was thinking of that case myself, at the time I had read some of his posts and I did not saw in them any menace to society, so there was no reason for any interference from me.


True, I went back and read some of his last posts and there was no indication of what he was about to undertake.

So in that case the "bystander effect" does not seem to apply.

I guess the thing that strikes me most about this story (op) is how much grief this mod got for doing the right thing.

I find it astonishing actually.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:06 AM
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Originally posted by Alora
Good for him! If he hadn't said anything, the people who are complaining now would be complaining because he "allowed" something terrible to happen.


The problem is that if the mod and the other two members had done nothing there would have been no one to complain against. It would have been a perfect example of the bystander effect.

It is in my opinion possible, that those who are berating the "samaritan," do so more because they failed to act themselves and carry the corresponding guilt, than because the mod broke some abstract forum behavior code. In essence they need a reason to justify their own inaction.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:10 AM
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I don't know about that to be honest.
Did they find a tin of gas under his bed?
I mean people always say they are going to do things.
And never intend to do them.
If we called the Police, every time?
Just to be safe, right?
We may as well install a camera in our house, with a microphone, so they can watch us, just in case right?



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:14 AM
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Originally posted by ArMaP
PS: the ATS member was Weise.

Edit: it was almost exactly 4 years ago, on March 21 2005.

[edit on 28/3/2009 by ArMaP]





Just clicked on that link..... and apparently it says i have friended him???
WTF??

I wasn't even registered when he last visited the site... i am on his list of "I'm a friend of"

Now that is F'd up!!!!!!





posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:20 AM
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Originally posted by aLiiEn
Did they find a tin of gas under his bed?


In the interview it is reported that the guy was caught by police outside his school "gas tank and matches in hand" just minutes before he was about to commit the attack.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:25 AM
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Originally posted by blupblup

Originally posted by ArMaP
PS: the ATS member was Weise.

Edit: it was almost exactly 4 years ago, on March 21 2005.

[edit on 28/3/2009 by ArMaP]





Just clicked on that link..... and apparently it says i have friended him???
WTF??

I wasn't even registered when he last visited the site... i am on his list of "I'm a friend of"

Now that is F'd up!!!!!!




you aren't the only one with that glitch.
I looked up a couple of members and had that shocker, and they are not on my profile but Iam on theirs.
sorry for the off topic.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 12:14 PM
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Originally posted by AccessDenied
you aren't the only one with that glitch.
I looked up a couple of members and had that shocker, and they are not on my profile but Iam on theirs.
sorry for the off topic.


Me too....there is one guy in particular who has like everyone on his friends list and I've never even spoken to him??


Really quite annoying.


Sorry for off topic post SD



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 12:19 PM
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Originally posted by citizen smith
Wasn't there a former ATS member who was responsible for a school shooting a couple of years ago? They posted hints at what they were going to do but somehow slipped by folks' attention and went on to carry out the threat


yes there was a poster here, as the previous poster linked to, who shot up his school - at an indian reservation I think. He's now dead. I was here when it happened and I don't remember seeing him offer any hints that he was going to do it.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 08:54 PM
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Originally posted by aLiiEn
I mean people always say they are going to do things.
And never intend to do them.
If we called the Police, every time?
Just to be safe, right?
We may as well install a camera in our house, with a microphone, so they can watch us, just in case right?


Well that is the dilemma isn't it?

What if any is the threshold for taking real life action to prevent a perceived threat posted on an internet forum?

I believe there are jurisdictions in the United States with Good Samaritan laws that require bystanders to help out in a situation whereupon their intervention could have prevented the commission of an ongoing crime. Is it reasonable to expect such laws to apply to internet forums?



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 10:54 PM
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Just a thought, but do you think JP Neufeld approves of being named as the person who turned him in? Moreover do you like the idea that his location is also public knowledge? I think I'd want to remain anonymous if I were giving a tip to the police with regards to the actions of a potentially violent and deranged suspect.



posted on Mar, 29 2009 @ 11:30 PM
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reply to post by SevenThunders
 


Well JP identified himself to both the written press and in his NPR interview posted in the OP.



posted on Mar, 30 2009 @ 12:06 AM
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Originally posted by aLiiEn
I don't know about that to be honest.
Did they find a tin of gas under his bed?
I mean people always say they are going to do things.
And never intend to do them.
If we called the Police, every time?
Just to be safe, right?
We may as well install a camera in our house, with a microphone, so they can watch us, just in case right?


It is not like the police went to his house and pulled him out. They went to the school and waited on him to show up. If he had changed his mind and not went to the school he would not have be arrested for trying to set the school on fire. Still would be in trouble for posting a threat like that.



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