On Sunday, the young teen tweeted this message to American Airlines: “Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m going to do something really big bye.”
The teenager was tweeting from her personal Twitter account, which revealed that her name was Sarah and that she lived in the Netherlands. Instead of ignoring her comment as she probably assumed would happen, the airline responded to it, saying: “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”
Whether or not American Airlines can actually find out anyone’s IP address is unclear, but the girl quickly apologized while simultaneously digging her hole deeper by claiming “a friend” did it, and prompting further public backlash when she declared that her status as a “white girl” was evidence that her threat wasn’t serious.
Authorities took her threat seriously enough, and after an investigation was launched into discovering her whereabouts, the girl turned herself in to the Rotterdam police, and is currently being questioned. She has been charged with “posting a false or alarming announcement” under Dutch law, and her Twitter account is suspended.
Though some have criticized American Airlines for its approach to the issue, most have agreed that it was a distasteful joke that “Sarah” should have known not to make to an international air service provider. AA spokesperson Matt Miller, in an interview with CNN, stated that “The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority. We take security matters very seriously and work with authorities on a case-by-case basis… American’s response was taken down per our standard procedures.”
“In this day and age, social media content goes viral very quickly,” says Tim McDonald, head of marketing at RankXPress. “If something is seen by the right people, you’re going to get in trouble, even for a joke. When something is put on a social media website, you’re opening it up for the world to see. It’s not smart to play around like that.”