How can you keep yourself safe on social media?

Posted at: 05/08/2013 11:49 PM
By: Lynette Adams

A Chili man is accused of using another person's Facebook account to make threats against firefighters in New York City. After hearing about the Facebook threats, News10NBC wanted to know what these accusations could teach you about using social media.

Investigators say Gary Battista threatened to kill those firefighters.

It's an act that hits close to home because of the Christmas Eve ambush here in Webster.

Police say William Spengler set fire to his home on Lake Road that morning then shot four West Webster firefighters as they responded to it. Two of those firefighters, Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were killed.

In the case against Gary Battista, he is charged with making a terroristic threat, as well as computer trespassing and criminal impersonation.

New York State Police say Battista illegally obtained another person's Facebook username and password and used them to post the threats against New York City firefighters. Police say the threats were made online from Battista's home.

According to court documents, Battista only knew the victim from Facebook and some phone conversations. In his statements to police, Battista says someone close to the victim gave him the victim's his username and password. Battista says his motive was “anger” with the victim.

Since police say this all happened on Facebook, News10NBC wanted to know what precautions you should take to keep yourself safe online and avoid legal troubles.

Here's an example of a post police say they found on Batista's laptop.

The post said, "I enjoy threatening firefighter lives. The most important is, I take out every fire department of New York firefighter. I'm going to start with 65 house.”

Tom Proietti, who has taught media and journalism courses for 42 years, says posting anything that is false, threatening or damaging to a person's reputation could get you in trouble.

Proietti, says Facebook is no different than any other forum. He says it is set up to flag certain words and phrases and its staff is constantly on the lookout for anything illegal.

Proietti says if you want to settle a score or say something negative, don't use social media. He says once something goes out over the web, you can't take it back. He thinks this case is a good example of what we could now begin to see more of.

“The charges are probably consistent with the kinds of things we're going to be seeing more often more frequently and thank goodness for you folks because you're publicizing it. So the word gets out that, 'you know what for the dumb things I may be tweeting or those dangerous things I may be saying on Facebook or the threats I'm making against people, individuals or institutions I could be held accountable' and not just accountable in a liable case, but in a criminal case as well,” said Proietti.

Battista apologized in a statement to police saying, “I apologize and am sorry for everything I've said while angry.”

Battista goes on to apologize for posting on someone else's Facebook page. But it may be a little too late. Battista is facing two felony counts that could possibly land him in jail.