Daily Jolt Post Threatens “Massacre”

Yesterday afternoon, Dean of Students Jim Larimore sent an email to all of Swarthmore’s students announcing that “an overnight posting on a public Web site … contained a threat of violence against fellow Swarthmore students.”

The Gazette is investigating these postings, but several anonymous sources have revealed that the threats originated in the Daily Jolt. Between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m., an anonymous user created a thread entitled “massacre,” in which the user, according to a later participant in the thread, wrote “I’m going to shoot the first 10 freshmen i see tomorrow.” The thread amassed five posts (all of which have since been deleted), in which three other users suggested that the original post was inappropriate.

At this time, the Gazette has no information which suggests the poster had any intention or capability to act on the threat.

The student, who is a regular on the Jolt forum, suggested that the original post might have been in response to a dramatic upswing in the number of threads consisting of ad-hominem attacks. Some long-time users attribute this spike to new freshman users. “Lots of old jolters blame the freshmen,” explained the Gazette’s source.

While the Daily Jolt allows anonymous comments, every user must have an account linked to a valid email address, and it is common practice for online message boards to keep records of IP addresses. While the Jolt’s privacy policy declares that it “will not disclose your personal information to any other person or company without your express consent,” it also makes clear that the site does record and store IP addresses and that there are circumstances when this information can be revealed, most notably:

The Daily Jolt may disclose user information in cases where we believe that it is required to identify, contact or bring legal action against someone who may be causing injury to or interference with (either intentionally or unintentionally) The Daily Jolt’s rights or property, other Daily Jolt users, or anyone else. The Daily Jolt may disclose user information if we believe in good faith that the law requires it. [link]

Swarthmore maintains records linking IP addresses to unique machine addresses for a month, which means if the Daily Jolt told the IP address of the poster to ITS, it would be easy to immediately identify the computer from which the post was made.

As more information on this story becomes available, we’ll update this article.


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0 comments

  1. 0
    duh says:

    The person didn’t mention class year. That wouldn’t matter anyway, it’s still a threat worth investigating even if it’s coming from a freshman

  2. 0
    confused says:

    If the poster was a freshman him/herself (as it said in the follow Gazette article this morning) doesn’t it then logically follow that the post had to be a parody of the freshmen-hating that was going on on the Jolt? Not that a freshman wouldn’t dis his/her own class, but from an analytic point of view it seems far more likely that it was intended as a mockery of upperclassmen in FAVOR of the freshmen class.

  3. 0
    anonymous source says:

    Joe, first of all, whether you like Swat BBS or not, the anonymous Jolt exists, and is used, and everyone is aware of the problems with dialogue that is anonymous. Second, the Gazette’s anonymity policies with regards to the sex columnists are perfectly reasonable, for the reasons Miles explained, to people who hope to hold jobs in non-sex-related industries. Third, anonymous commenting on the Gazette is tied to IP addresses as well as emails, and the Gazette has done a good job publicly discussing its policy (see last month’s controversy about the parent’s comment). I for one comment anonymously on the Gazette on occasion, just because I don’t like being a public persona at Swarthmore, but I do so with thought because I respect many of the Gazette staff and even if the Swat community wouldn’t know who posted my comments, they would, and that’s enough incentive for me. Fourth, the Phoenix has a long history of plagiarism, misquotes, and making shit up, while the Gazette does its best to source things. Fifth, as I said above, I stayed off the record with Miles because I have no desire to be outed as a Jolt regular, because the place is an embarrassment – a deliciously distracting bastion of procrastination, but an embarrassment, particularly lately. Sixth, I can see why people are concerned about the decision to publish an article of this nature with only anonymous sources, but I think many on campus would rather know that this was a Jolt joke gone wrong than know nothing about a rather alarming email.

    And yes, I was foggy on the exact title of the post, but “Mass Murder” does sound accurate. It was 2am when I saw the thread.

  4. 0
    Miles Skorpen ( User Karma: 6 ) says:

    Interestingly enough, the Jolt actually does require users to have account—there just is a check box to make your post anonymous. So the Jolt’s admins can find out which users are making which posts easily enough.

    The thing about the Gazette’s commenting is that it is not unchecked—we moderate every comment that goes through these boards. And the vast majority of the time people use legitimate email addresses, so we know who is doing the posting.

    As for the Bone Doctor, in particular, his anonymity is to allow freedom of expression—what student would want potential employers finding that kind of column years later? If you still aren’t aware of his identity, feel free to email dailygazette@swarthmore.edu — it wasn’t something intended to be kept secret from the Swarthmore community.

  5. 0
    Joseph Borkowski '08 says:

    I’d like to see a discussion of anonymous postings that are Swarthmore-sanctioned, or at least taken seriously, at Swarthmore. I’ve already mentioned this in a short Twitter discussion with Miles, and although I agree completely that the Daily Jolt and the Daily Gazette are two completely different entities in form and content, it troubles me particularly that the Daily Gazette encourages the kind of anonymous participation that, unchecked, may breed the kind of junk that gets thrown around on the Daily Jolt. SwatBBS, for example, would be a more appropriate student forum than the Jolt, because SwatBBS requires posters to at least post while signed in (as far as I am aware).
    I believe that the anonymity afforded commenters and columnists of the Daily Gazette (M, The Bone Doctor) is a detriment to The Daily Gazette’s legitimacy as a source of news, and to the commenters themselves. I would rather have to defend my opinions by being compelled to post productive comments than be able to post any reply off the cuff, or write anonymous pornographic accounts without the threat of accountability. Where has the pride gone? Regardless of the quality of various news sources, forums, and social networks, I would like to point out that The Phoenix refuses as a matter of policy any anonymous submission. Even pseudonyms are allowed only if they accurately represent the entire name of the actual author, as occurred with one column in the Spring 2006 semester.
    It is also true that the New York Times allows anonymous comments to its articles on nytimes.com, something that I believe hinders productive discussion of articles by inundating comment lists with sometimes dozens of simplistic responses. When the Daily Gazette or New York Times’ censorship agents allow a comment, they give the comment a sense of credibility–a platform where the comment is published and promoted. These sanctioned news sources should hold posters accountable for their content by requiring the publishing of their identities and an avenue for contact. Anonymous sources in legitimate news articles are often backed by sources that actually may be named, and any author who does not do this should be trusted only so much as they too may be held accountable.
    If the pen is mightier than the sword, I’d like to know who’s swinging it.
    Otherwise I might as well write, “thanks for the input, freshman”.

  6. 0
    Trickster G., II says:

    a) It’s really easy to confirm that the ‘with a paintball gun’ thing was from the same person, both by IPs and because I’m telling you since I know who did it and I’ve talked to them.

    b) I totally agree that it needs to be taken seriously, and that such things need to be investigated. It’s just that this threat has already been confirmed as a joke by the administration, and thus I don’t think there is any more to say about the issue – why does anyone need to know anything else? Everyone should learn from it and be careful what kind of things they say online, joking or not, and that’s all that needs to be said.

  7. 0
    Will says:

    Regardless of intent, such threats must be taken seriously. For every one hundred jokes, there are a few serious ones. Making threats to harm others is no joke, and the law treats jokes the same as it treats serious threats.

  8. 0
    anonymous source says:

    I told Miles about the paintball gun thing, however, while I said it looked like it had been the original poster who posted “with a paintball gun,” it was all entirely anonymous Guest postings, and there wasn’t even an attempt to link it by signing it “OP,” which of course could have been done by anyone anyway.

    I’m sure the person feels embarassed and regretful, but the email from Larimore alarmed a lot of people and the Gazette has the right to publish this information so that they have a more complete idea of what happened.

  9. 0
    Trickster G., II says:

    If you really want more information on the story, then it’s worth noting that the poster amended his original statement with “…with a paintball gun.” That’s pretty much all you need to know.

  10. 0
    Trickster G., II says:

    Please don’t update this. The jolt is disgusting, and that post was meant as an extreme parody of what’s been happening there lately. The student who made the joke is very embarrassed and regretful, and there’s really no reason to publicize this any further. Just stop.

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