Preventing Mass Violence through Digital Leakage

Preventing Mass Violence through Digital Leakage

After a mass shooting we frequently discover the digital red flags that announced the crime to be committed.  Cyber data gathering and assessment is vital to prevention and sustaining community health. Many of the past decade’s mass shootings might have been prevented— along with millions of cases of sex crimes, stalking, and human trafficking— with access to the perpetrators digital persona and digitally documented planning.  In the wake of events like San Bernardino and Sandy Hook, we are learning what to look for.

Alliant University professor Glenn Lipson is at the forefront of collaborative approaches with law enforcement and mental health professionals on the artful balance of right to privacy and the competing need to obtain digital data when managing or assessing threats. Fortunately for prevention, the digital leakage of threats splashes into social media before some acts of violence, giving us a window to prevent a course of actions.

These days there is rarely a plan for violence that doesn’t have at least one digital component. Whether it be research, acquiring weapons, or coordinating with partners in crime, many violent offenders leave a digital trail.

Dr. Glenn Lipson, professor for both the California School of Professional Psychology and the California School of Forensic Science at Alliant University, recognizes the cyber world’s ability to kindle love, hate, charity and violence.  Lipson very clearly sees the need to coordinate all the stakeholders in sharing information when digital leakage suggests there may an active threat.

With the prominence of social media, there is also a chance for the average citizen to spot trouble brewing.

What should you look for?

  • Proportionality

Does the emotion communicated seem appropriate to the events the person is reacting to?

If someone sounds full rage at what appears to be a minor or nonexistent slight, this raises concerns.  A response like, “she did not look at me on purpose”, and “she will live, or maybe not, to regret it,” is out of proportion to a teacher hurriedly handing her students back their papers and not making eye contact with everyone in a classroom.

  • Grievance collector

Does someone seem to be constantly collecting things that fuel their anger?

If a person seems unable to forgive or forget, they are in all likelihood building a store of resentment and anger that may fuel a self-righteous belief that they need to avenge how they have been wronged.

  • Association or Identification

Look out for association or reference to hate groups or people who have committed crimes.  These individuals justify actions and set the body count to exceed for greater fame.

Lipson and his counterparts are not the only ones who can help assess, and even deter threats. We can all help curve violence in the era of mass tragedies. As Dr. Lipson, so poignantly, concludes “Our digital world has brought into the palm of our hands new social influences that will either support us in choosing what affirms love and connection or instead isolation, despair and destruction. We need to examine these influences in this brave new digital virtual world as these bytes and images impact our relationships.”