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Causing false public alarm
December 7, 2008 9:53 PM   Subscribe

As those of you on the wrong email lists can probably guess, Snopes is overflowing with gang initiation rumors. What you may not know is that the New Jersey police recently arrested someone spreading those stories for "causing false public alarm."

On one hand, I'm having a hard time equating this directly with yelling fire in a crowded theater. On the other hand, I'm not sure I would miss Aunt Betsy if she was deprived of her email privileges.
posted by tkolar (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The chief likened Lazaro's postings to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

The chief should parse Supreme Court opinions more carefully.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:56 PM on December 7, 2008


Oh, and I forgot to mention that of course, a much earlier October 30 was the date of fake, fearmongering work of live fiction in New Jersey.
posted by tkolar at 9:59 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't they be arresting all the idiots who called 911 for a non emergency?
posted by robtf3 at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2008


In other "arrested for internet hoax" news an australian man was arrested for making this fake baby swinging video
posted by delmoi at 10:12 PM on December 7, 2008


Will the chief also arrest everyone at the Department of Homeland Security for spreading Terror Alerts that turned out to be false?
posted by mattdidthat at 10:13 PM on December 7, 2008 [13 favorites]


The headlights hoax used to be posted around a few of the shops in Hoboken more than a decade ago.

Also - Nigerian scams? They were sent by fax in the '80s.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:16 PM on December 7, 2008


They should also arrest anyone who forwards me a OMG ZERO VIRUS VERIFIED BY MICROSOFT AND CNN email. Extra jail time for every email address under the forward.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:34 PM on December 7, 2008


Shouldn't they be arresting all the idiots who called 911 for a non emergency?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 PM on December 7, 2008


I'm not sure where my "Calling 911 frivolously is against the law" response went, but it's here now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:09 PM on December 7, 2008


Who are "the New Jersey police"?
posted by dhammond at 11:27 PM on December 7, 2008


They're like Scrantonicity, but a little more ska.
posted by fleacircus at 2:51 AM on December 8, 2008 [6 favorites]


i have to say, if they start arresting folks for BEING WRONG ON THE INTERNET, we're all hosed.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:37 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aren't these the same people who sent me the "Obama is a terrorist" emails?
posted by erpava at 5:38 AM on December 8, 2008


Best of the web. For sure.

Huh?
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:58 AM on December 8, 2008


You take this one.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2008


The headlights hoax used to be posted around a few of the shops in Hoboken more than a decade ago.

i had arguments with students in suburban chicago over this hoax circa 1992. unfortunately, there was no snopes to point to at the time.
posted by RedEmma at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2008


Best of the web. For sure.

Actually more of an interesting little moment in the social development of the web.

The cost of annoying thousands of your fellow humans has dropped dramatically with the advent of the internet. The anti-spam laws were the first attempt to rein that in.

This arrest, if upheld, takes things a bit further.
posted by tkolar at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2008


God, I hate Snopes. It's nice that they're trying to dispel rumours and everything, but the amateur psychology they like to throw in really annoys me.

Here's an example from an article about a stealth car:

"In another sense, the tale is the ultimate automotive 'wish fulfillment' legend which leaves folks drooling over the sugarplum of an impossibly fast car invisible to the gendarmes. Speed limits are all well and good, provided they're enforced on everyone else; each of us secretly longs for the unfettered freedom to do whatever we like on the open road, including setting new land speed records, if that's what takes our fancy. At least in the realm of imagination, safety and concern for others ranks well behind the desire to have the baddest car in town, the jalopy the cops can never touch."

Just tell me if the goddamn thing is true or not. If I wanted wanking I'd be on a completely different website, believe me.

The pop-ups are annoying too.
posted by ODiV at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2008


As someone who has to listen to in-laws who swallow this crap hook-line-and-sinker with alarming regularity (going on-and-on at family gatherings about "all the black gangs"), I say spacing is too good for the kid.
Though I think it's about right for the in-laws...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:32 AM on December 8, 2008


Huh. I thought my rant felt familliar. So, I guess I'll see you guys in a year when I inevitably complain about Snopes again.
posted by ODiV at 9:34 AM on December 8, 2008


ODiV,

Snopes evolved from alt.folklore.urban, a newsgroup whose mission very much included discussions of why some urban legends were so much more fertile than others.

It's not a government rumor-debunking agency. It's an urban legend blog run by enthusiasts talking about what interests them.

If they weren't interested in urban legends enough to take part in what you call "wankery," they would never have become the trusted resource they are today.
posted by straight at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2008


In other "arrested for internet hoax" news an australian man was arrested for making this fake baby swinging video

You posted the same link twice, and it doesn't say anything about the video being fake. A google search on "baby swinging video" brings up a few blog entries in which people are speculating that it might be fake, but nothing definitively debunking it. Do you have a supporting link?

Also, the Australian guy didn't make the video; he only posted a link to it and was arrested for "downloading child abuse material"—which is way more fucked up.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2008


Here's what Snopes had to say about this specific case. This was Halloween (or the night before) and many people were e-mailed or texted in several states. The Stroudsburg, NY police tried to quash the rumors and the school board noted that a lot of time and trouble was being taken over this matter. It seems there was a fair bit of panic over a large area of the country. Including this:
Police in Jersey City beefed up security at schools due to the reports of impending violence and in some Hudson County communities school events were canceled.
How much of it Anthony Lazaro was responsible for is another question but it does appear that the authorities has a legitimate interest in prosecuting him. On the other hand, they had to subpoena ISP records to charge the guy and that's scary, too.
posted by CCBC at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2008


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