More law enforcement eyes combing social media for school threats

Three different Central Florida school districts in a single week had to deal with lockdowns, heightened security, and alerts to parents and students due to potential threats. As is the case lately, most of those threats were discovered on social media.

"Social media is the way nowadays to convey threats,” said Dave Benson, a local security expert.

Benson, also a Certified Threat Manager, said he often finds himself encouraging law enforcement, schools, and businesses to keep a closer eye on social media spaces for potential threats.

He said not only is that where the threats are often made, but also where early warning signs will start to show."One unique thing about school shooters is, generally, they almost always tell someone,” said Benson.

Law Enforcement experts say the changing use of technology in these threats is forcing them to evolve their methods too.

Just since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Benson said most Florida counties have formed threat assessment teams to better spot problems in advance.

The addition of tools like Fortify FL, an app that lets students report threats to their school, has also given cops more eyes on potential problems.  Benson said those extra eyes are still key to preventing issues; even as police watch those spaces closer and closer.

“You have to get that information to the right people in a timely fashion. Law enforcement cannot blanket the entire internet and we frankly don’t want them to do that,” said Benson. "They've got to act quickly. The immediate nature of social media means sometimes you don't have any time at all."

Social media platforms are also adjusting and keeping closer eyes on their servers for red flags. Leaders at SnapChat said Friday that they work closely with law enforcement around the world on these matters. The company says they too have integrated easy ways for users to report problematic posts and encourage users to do so.