Mass shooting in Florida High School

Social media’s role in Florida mass shooting

On Feb. 15, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he opened fire with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 people, including students and staff.

Cruz was a previous student of the high school and was expelled last year after numerous suspensions. A delve into his past revealed more red flags and disciplinary issues.

“This is an emotionally broken young man … He has been through a lot of trauma. He has suffered significant mental illness, and significant mental trauma,” said public defender Gordon Weekes to Washington Post reporters.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families reported that a call came in to its abuse hotline on Sept. 28, 2016 claiming Cruz was on SnapChat cutting his arms, allegedly after breaking up with his girlfriend, getting into a fight and drawing a Nazi symbol on his book-sack. The state’s investigation was ended six weeks later under the conclusion that Cruz was receiving sufficient care from a mental health center.

However, his posts didn’t stop at SnapChat or physical self-harm. He also made various posts to other social media outlets threatening the safety of others through his anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic views.

He said he hated “jews, n—-rs, and immigrants,” according to a post he made in a private Instagram group chat, revealed by CNN. He also talked about wanting to kill Mexicans and gay people.

The FBI received tips about him and his disturbing social media posts but took little action to investigate. This fact left many wondering whether this attack could have been stopped in its tracks with the proper attention from authorities.

“I think social media posts need to be taken seriously. I mean a lot of people are just buffing behind the anonymity of the internet, but if someone said those things in real life, we’d all be running to the cops,” said freshman Amanda Tillard.

The Citizens Crime Commission of New York City has compiled an ongoing list of currently 221 cases since 2014, including a few from New Orleans, in which social media posts were made alluding to violence or a specific pre-meditated violent incident before the incident took place.

“On one hand, I agree that people should report shady stuff they see on social media, but then again, I don’t want the government all in my business,” said junior Maya Woodson.

While social media usage has greatly increased, its use within more formal institutions such as the legal system has been limited. It is argued that the first and fourth amendments protect majority of social media posts, and getting social media outlets to comply is often difficult within itself.

It is unknown how many crimes could have potentially been stopped, but if tragic events like the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School can be prevented, it may be something law enforcement will investigate.