FBI reminding public about serious nature, penalties for making online threats

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The FBI wants to remind students that making a fake school threat carries permanent penalties.

Federal investigators are asking for the public's help in spotting and reporting online threats, including those posted on social media sources. That's why they're ramping up their "Think Before You Post" campaign, which has been active for some time now. Social media users may spot the hashtag #ThinkBeforeYouPost.

No matter the context -- even if it's meant as a joke -- the FBI takes every one of these types of threats seriously. Federal agents said excuses of "it's only a joke" or "I didn't mean it" don't impress federal judges, and penalties can include long prison sentences.

"We really want to get the message out to all -- not just to students, but we want to get it out to the public in general about making a hoax threat or posting a hoax threat. It's not a joke and there are consequences to it," FBI spokesperson Bridget Patton said on Tuesday.

Patton said adults can also find themselves making these crucial mistakes.

"It's a federal crime and you can face a significant fine and even face prison time," Patton said. "These threats -- they have an impact across the entire student body. They drain law enforcement resources as well as school resources, not to mention the significant cost to taxpayers."

Patton said the FBI relies on the public's eyes and ears with this issue. If you see a threat online, you can report it by using the FBI's cyber crimes website. Law enforcement officers recommend you snap screenshots of the threat for possible use in your report.

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