Mass Shooters’ Names ‘Go Everywhere’ on Social Media

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When law enforcement authorities gathered to discuss details of the Texas mass shooting that left seven people dead, there was one bit of information they refused to provide on live television: the name of the gunman. They named him in a Facebook post. Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke declared, “I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did.” It remained a challenge to curb the spread of the gunman’s name, the Associated Press reports. The Odessa Police Department has fewer than 25,000 followers of its Facebook page, but it easily reaches millions of Facebook’s members around the globe and the post was shared hundreds of times. Within minutes, Twitter lit up with posts mentioning his name. In the era of a saturation of social media and around-the-clock news, it’s next to impossible to keep a lid on such information.

“Ultimately, the police department can only directly control what they do, and that name, that information can be reposted and retweeted and republished hundreds of thousands of times,” said University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford. He and others ask the media to limit the volume of information about perpetrators, saying it does little to increase understanding about the reasons for the violence or stop it in the future. The “No Notoriety” movement spread after Colorado’s 1999 Columbine school shooting. The idea is to urge news organizations to refrain from naming mass shooters in mass slayings and to curb the volume of biographical information about them. Tom Manger of the Major Cities Chiefs Association said the name of the shooter is considered public information that must be disseminated, and there’s a general thirst for information about mass shooters. “It goes out in a hundred different ways,” Manger said. “Once it goes out on social media, it goes everywhere.”

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