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October 31, 2014

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Should the shooting of a teen be blamed on Facebook?

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Ryan Olbrysh

Posting an event on Facebook? Police are now recommending that teens refrain from doing so.

A girl is dead, and now it’s time to play the blame game. We could blame violent video games or Marilyn Manson, but that’s been done before. So the police have settled on a new target: Facebook.

On January 15, 17-year-old Betty Pinkney went to a house party near Lamb and Alexander. A fight broke out around 1 a.m., ending in gunfire. As she tried to leave, a stray bullet hit Pinkney.

So how does Facebook come into play? The house party details were shared on Facebook. Now police are recommending that teens not use the social networking site to invite their friends to parties—that they use the telephone instead. You know, the thing you have to talk into.

Marsha Collier, a social media expert and the author of Facebook and Twitter for Seniors for Dummies, says, “I feel dreadful for the family, but I don’t think Facebook put this unfortunate young woman at risk. You can make private events on Facebook.”

Like the police, Collier thinks all Facebook users should proceed with caution: “With the freedom of the Internet comes responsibility. I’ve been to big events that I’ve seen on Facebook, but I knew the people involved. Personally, I don’t go to any events where I don’t know the people organizing. You need to vet your friendships on Facebook and everywhere else in the web.”

That seems like a healthy balance. Yes, Facebook is going to factor into some crimes, just as it factors into friendship, love, entertainment, politics and everything else in the world. But when somebody gets shot, let’s keep the blame where it belongs: on the shooter.

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