As online hate speech proliferates, where do you draw the line?

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Man accessing the Internet. Photo via WINK News.
Credit: WINK News

Information technology specialist Shawn Book delves into the world wide web everyday. But something meant to connect us, he said, is seemingly becoming darker as it evolves.

“People are starting to lose the humanity of it all,” Book said. “There’s a real person on the other side and maybe I shouldn’t call them that.”

Accused Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, Rober Bowers, called the Jewish community plenty of hateful things online.

On his online biography for Gab, which is similar to Twitter but commonly used by those on the alt-right, Bowers wrote, “Jews are the children of satan. (john 8:44).”

“It’s clear this man had a real hatred for Jewish people,” Richard Kolko said, a retired special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “He displayed that openly on a lot of his posts.”

Bowers last post before investigators said he went into the Tree of Life Synagogue and killed 11 people said, “I’m going in,” which referenced a refugee group. But Kolko said that was not sufficient for law enforcement to step in.

“If you look at that alone,” Kolko said, “that’s difficult to say that’s a specific credible threat.”

A specific credible threat is what he said law enforcement needs to take action. There are plenty of potential threats circulating online on any given day.

“There’s billions of postings everyday,” Kolko said.

But the FBI does not monitor social media sites.

“They’re restricted from doing that,” Fran Townsend said, CBS News senior national security analyst and former White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor, “under what’s called the attorney general guidelines.”

In an effort to protect the first amendment right to free speech.

Despite his immersion in some of the Internet perils, Shawn Book believes people should be allowed to express their opinions, but on certain conditions.

“I don’t believe they should be censored,” Book said. “Perhaps individuals that are taking it too far online and are registered users able to be tracked should be investigated similar to threats on, say, our political figures.”

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