Tweet in jest against airline has real consequences
14-year-old Dutch girl threatened American Airlines, and identified herself as an Al Qaida male from Afghanistan.
The New York Times
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PARIS — Youthful pranks in the age of Twitter are no laughing matter, especially if you are a 14-year-old Dutch girl impersonating a terrorist.
When the girl, using the Twitter handle @QueenDemetriax, sent a threat to American Airlines on Sunday, she surely could not have imagined that by Tuesday she would be arrested by the Rotterdam police, attract a global media storm, and become the object of both fierce derision and sympathy.
The episode began when the girl, who posted under the name Sarah, sent a message to the American Airlines Twitter account. “Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan,” it read. “I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”
Six minutes later, she had her reply from the airline: “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.” That, in turn, prompted the girl to write a series of frantic and panicked tweets, pleading, “I’m just a girl.”
The Rotterdam Police Department said Tuesday that she could face criminal charges for posting a false or alarming announcement. Tinet de Jonge, a spokeswoman for the department, said by phone that the girl had been released Monday but remained a suspect, pending an investigation. She said it was up to American Airlines to decide whether to press charges.
Matt Miller, a spokesman for American Airlines, declined to comment on how the carrier might proceed. “The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority,” he said Tuesday by phone from Fort Worth, Texas. Dozens of threatening copycat tweets had been sent to the airline by Tuesday.
The girl’s father defended her, telling the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad on Tuesday that his daughter was a typical teenager, not a criminal. He said he had not been aware that she had drawn global attention. “World news? I had no idea,” he told the newspaper.
Reactions on social media sites were divided. Some denounced the girl as a foolish racist while others said her post was merely a youthful indiscretion.
“Overreaction. Seriously she’s just 14,” a Twitter user called @samet63 from Montreal wrote
. “Go and catch bad guys,” a Dutch user called @nonfreak added.
But others were less charitable. “Remember when you’re feelin stupid, at least you’re not @queendemetriax_ stupid,” wrote a user called @amazing__matt.