A message threatening students on Austin, Texas, and nearby campuses was posted on a 4chan r9k message board on Monday afternoon. The threat, like the one for schools in the northwest before the mass murders, raises once again the concern of campus safety and campus carry and second amendment issues, but also free speech, hate speech, and the potential policing and government regulation of such speech.The message was almost identical to one left on a 4chan message board the day before the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Law enforcement officials in Austin have ruled out the threat saying it is not credible.
As reported by Breitbart News, the 4chan message the day before the Oregon murders stated, “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest.” The threat against Austin area campuses stated, “Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you’re near Austin.”
The threat for the Austin area schools was circulated late Monday afternoon and night, and law enforcement and school representatives were notified.
Breitbart Texas spoke with representatives from the Austin Police Department and the University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Both responded that they had evaluated the threat and concluded there was no reason to believe there was a credible threat to students at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, or to any other campus located in Austin. Besides the University of Texas, several campuses for Austin Community College are located in Austin, and it is the home of Saint Edward’s University, Concordia University, several seminaries and schools of theology, and other campuses of higher education.
UTPD assured they will continue to actively monitor the web and social media for threatening posts. UTPD also said they “work closely with experts from many law enforcement agencies who specialize in investigating threats to determine credibility.” They have concluded that “At this time there is no credible threat to our campus.”
Corporal Angel Polansky with the public information department of the Austin Police Department told Breitbart Texas that the agency would continue to work with the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) to determine any risk to campuses.
A spokesperson from UTPD added, “That said, we have asked the members of our campus community to remain vigilant and to notify police of suspicious activity. We also have reminded our students, faculty, and staff of how to sign up for text alerts and provided links to educational materials on how we communicate during an emergency.”
The University of Texas Police representative continued, “We understand that this kind of treat, even a non-credible threat can create anxiety in our community. Please be assured that we would notify campus immediately if there were cause for concern.”
UTPD added that although violence on a campus is “unlikely, it is always better to be prepared.” The university police department noted that it had several videos posted on its website that provides instruction on what to do in an active shooter situation.
The police department for Texas State University in nearby San Marcos, Texas, issued a statement on Twitter that “The safety of everyone on and around Texas State campus is always our main concern. You will be notified if anything credible arises.”
The safety of everyone on and around Texas State campus is always our main concern. You will be notified if anything credible arises.
— Texas State UPD (@TxStateUPD) October 6, 2015
Breitbart Texas could not reach a representative from the Austin Independent School District.
Breitbart News’ Allum Bokhari reported after the Oregon shooting that the 4chan message board had come under attack. The site has been called an “internet cesspool” used to spread “the most vile material.” The site had also been linked to the “sinister mask-wearing international vigilante hacking group Anonymous.”
Bokhari’s article discusses that social media activists were addressing just how far online platforms should go to police speech and communication. He wrote that rumors of the shooter’s posts on 4chan’s “r9k” or “robot 9000″ board “have incensed activists who believe that unmoderated, uncensored speech ultimately leads to hatred and harm.” He reported that the “r9k” board is a “point of congregation for posters” “who have genuine problems functioning in society.” The “board culture” also includes “the mix of memes and in-jokes that characterize every 4chan board,” he said.
Bokhari reported that social activists blamed these message boards for their “hands-off approach to regulating speech.” These activists say these internet message sites provide a platform where “hate speech thrives” and “mass killing plans get egged on online.” Moreover he reported, a post on an anti-men’s rights blog We Hunted The Mammoth expressed horror that 4chan users could be seen laughing and joking about the Oregon attacks after the shootings. Many 4chan users he reported were “seen openly planning to prank the media by tweeting fake suspects to journalists.” The Breitbart News article also stated that game developer Zoe Quinn, “who recently spoke at the launch of a U.N. report recommending state-led censorship of the web, called on website owners to ‘moderate your f***in platforms before the government steps in.’”
Presidential candiate Donald Trump noted that the Oregon campus was a gun free zone. He said that the situation was not a mental health issue but was a matter “of self defense, plain and simple,” as reported by Breitbart News. He continued, “I will tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or somebody with guns in that room you would have been a helluva lot better off.”
A campus carry bill was passed by the Texas legislature during the last legislative session. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on June 13th of this year, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The law will become effective on August 1, 2016. The bill has been criticized because public universities are given authority for where and how concealed handguns are permitted on a campus. Private universities in Texas would be able to opt-out of campus carry. Campus carry was a highly debated topic during the past session and the bill received both support and opposition from university representatives in Texas.
This article has been updated.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2