After Newtown tragedy, cops target social net pranksters

Connecticut State Police warn they will prosecute anyone posting false info, threatening

In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn, police warned that they will prosecute anyone purposefully posting false information related to the incident on social networks.

"Misinformation is being posted on social media sites," said Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance at a news conference Sunday, according to a report on NPR. "These issues are crimes. They will be investigated, statewide and federally, and prosecution will take place when people perpetrating this information are identified."

Vance pointed out that since last Friday's shooting at the elementary school, online posters have posed as the dead gunman, Adam Lanza, on social networking sites. Others have falsely taken on the identities of other figures in the involved in the incident and posted threatening messages. Twenty children and six adults were murdered Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The tragedy has driven people around the world to express grief and offer support on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. People often find solace connecting with their online friends, even setting up memorial pages, experts say.

However, some people are also quick to spread false information after such an incident.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he's not surprised that police have threatened to arrest people who are posting false or threatening information online.

"Fake posts and tweets obstruct the investigation," he said.

He suggested that many people who post false information are seeking attention. "I think fake posts are for attention. Never underestimate an idiot in situations like this. For many people, negative attention is better than no attention," Kerravala said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about cybercrime and hacking in Computerworld's Cybercrime and Hacking Topic Center.

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