Be wary of what you post on Facebook or Twitter, especially if you’re making threats (even the empty variety) on social media, because it could get you arrested.
Quebec police forces have been keeping tabs on social media use, targeting those who are using digital platforms to spread hate speech and unjustly demonize specific demographics.
"It's OK to exchange ideas on social media, but there really is a limit to respect so that it doesn't become criminal," said Quebec City spokesperson Mélissa Cliche to CBC, after several arrests were made.
The ongoing effort to police social media comes after the Quebec City mosque shooting of last year. Following the attack, Quebec City police have taken a “zero-tolerance approach” to hateful comments made online
At least five individuals have been arrested for propagating hate speech on social media platforms. Two were arrested in the Montreal area. Most of the arrests were linked to threatening remarks directed at Muslims.
Death threats, even those made online, can have major legal repercussions, a fact police forces want Quebecers to remember.
But don’t get the idea that police officers are constantly monitoring social media channels, scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds day in and day out.
"We don't monitor online activity of individuals. That's not our job” said RCMP officer John Athanasiades to CBC, who leads the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team based out of Montreal.
The RCMP only catches wind of hate speech online if a formal complaint is filed by a member of the general public. After that, the RCMP will look into the matter and decide if they need to investigate further.
Assuming that there is a criminal element to the remarks made online, the RCMP will hand the matter off to a police force in the jurisdiction. The RCMP only gets involved if its a matter of national security.
Officers will actually go and meet the person-under-investigation, says Athanasiades, giving them the chance to explain the situation in person, without the shield of a computer screen. An investigation will continue only if investigators don’t think the person will stop or if they are a real threat to public safety.