Secret Service investigates anti-Obama tweets

Ronny Kerr · March 23, 2010 · Short URL:

Tweets from two users calling for assassination of President get the government's attention

Obama + Secret ServiceDo people not yet understand that social media is a real form of communication, or do they just not care?

In the wake of the passage of health care legislation that has thus far been the dominating force of Obama's presidency, two Twitter users unhappy with the bill posted multiple tweets calling for the assassination of the President, spurring a Secret Service investigation.

"ASSASSINATION! America, we survived the Assassinations and Lincoln & Kennedy. We’ll surely get over a bullet to Barrack [sic] Obama’s head," read Solly Forrell's first tweet, which was immediately followed by one even blunter: "The next American with a Clear Shot should drop Obama like a bad habit. 4get Blacks or his claims to b[e] Black. Turn on Barack Obama."

The user's bio on Twitter reads, "Barack Obama's election in 2008 as the 44th POTUS was an American Electorate mistake & as an 'authentic' African-American - I should know." At the time of this writing, the tweets in question have been deleted, leaving a far tamer anti-health insurance tweet as the most recent: "Can anything that angers & divides us like #hcr really B good 4 America? U.S. has bad credit? Our rhetoric is vile. Mine included. Sad day."

The other tweet, "You Should be Assassinated!! @Barack Obama," came from @THHEE_JAY, a man since identified as Jay Martin, whose account appears to no longer exist on the site. Like the first user, Martin followed up his first tweet with a second, far more confrontational message: "If I lived in DC. I'd shoot him myself. Dead f***ing serious."

While the comments may have been made in jest with no actual plans to carry out the requests, the Secret Service is investigating both users and released the following statement:

"We are aware of the comments and are taking the appropriate investigative action. We respect the right of free speech, but in such instances we have a right and an obligation to ask questions and determine intent."

This is just another good example of how real social media communication really is and that the veil of anonymity on the Web can easily be torn down when necessary.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.

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