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Come On, No One Actually Took That Dutch Girl's Twitter Threat Seriously

April 15, 2014 at 3:59 PM | by | ()

Apparently there's a debate happening on the Internet - so says the LA Times - over whether the 14 year old Dutch girl who tweeted a terrorist threat to American Airlines was "a victim of security excess" or an "idiot." To which we answer, why can't it be both?

You'll recall that Sarah - of the now-deleted @QueenDemetriax_ Twitter account - tweeted to @AmericanAir over the weekend that "hello my name's Ibrahim and I'm from Afghanistan. I'm part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I'm gonna do something really big bye." The social media mavens at American responded exactly 6 minutes later (faster than they've ever done when, say, we've had a flight canceled) by publicly informing her that her "IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI."

Sarah promptly panicked, posting dozens of tweets pleading with the airline to ignore what she wrote and explaining that she was a teenage girl and so on. A couple of the tweets read "I'm so sorry I'm scared now" and "please save my live [sic]."

We'll admit that - at first - we didn't really know how to approach this story. For a while, Sarah seemed to be hinting that the tweet came from a friend, maybe while she wasn't looking or was out of the room or something. That's not impossible. Teenagers are idiots, and it's easy to imagine that she left herself logged into Twitter. Maybe her friend tried to play a stupid prank. Maybe someone should have been looking into that. Maybe this was clearly an overreaction.

But almost exactly an hour after the entire thing started - and after burning her way through excuses like "I'm 14 I can't control a plane" and "I'm too young to go to jail" - Sarah declared that "I always wanted to be famous, but I meant like Demi Lovato famous, not Osama bin laden famous." See what we mean about the "idiot" part?

As for the "security excess" part: this girl turned herself in while she was at the center of a global media storm that eventually rose to the level of CNN airtime (embedded below). The Rotterdam police force went out of its way to post updates about her arrest and subsequent release. She was the subject of hundreds of tweets attacking her. She's being blamed for copycat tweets that actually do seem kind of malicious. Twitter suspended her account.

And so the obvious question: was all of that actually necessary? A Rotterdam police department spokesman told CNN that "the assumption made by her tweets was taken seriously." Really? By whom? For how long? We want people's names, and then we never want to see them in charge of anything important. Because we've seen screencaps of most of the timeline, and it shouldn't have taken anyone more than 90 seconds to conclude that this was just a dumb tweet gone bad.

Was it worth mobilizing literally a globe's worth of legacy and new media and turning the spotlight on a panicked 14 year old girl who wants to be famous like Demi Lovato?

Maybe, maybe not. Safety officials can't just let people go around tweeting terror threats. But let's at least admit - for the sake of clear debate, if nothing else - that no one took this seriously for more than a few seconds, if at all.

[Photo: CNN]

Archived Comments:


Completely wrong. National security is not a joking issue. If we laughed this off like you suggest, then everyone would think it is okay to tweet threats, and we could not distinguish between legitimate threats and fake ones. While yes, this is most likely not a real threat, it is something that nonetheless needs to be looked in to seriously. Just like how bomb threats are 99% false, they need to be taken seriously for the off chance they are real. Really, you need to take a step back for a second and look at this. Not a well written article at all.

Great piece

But I think you nailed it at: "Teenagers are idiots." :-)

I Concur

@macdan911: Exactly. Every threat needs to be treated as important. The notion that any customer service (like someone responding to travel tweets) is qualified to determine the legitimacy of a threat is fairly ridiculous.