Secret Service probing Facebook poll on Obama
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Secret Service is investigating an online survey that
asked whether people thought President Barack Obama should be assassinated,
officials said yesterday.
The poll, posted Sept. 26 on Facebook, was taken off the popular
social-networking site quickly after company officials were alerted to its
existence. But, as with any threat against the president, Secret Service agents
are taking no chances. Threatening a president's life is a crime.
“We are aware of it and we will take the appropriate investigative steps,”
said Darrin Blackford, a Secret Service spokesman. “We take these things
The Los Angeles
Times reported the Secret Service was investigating who posted the
poll and why.
The poll asked respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices: “No,
Maybe, Yes,” and “Yes if he cuts my health care.”
The question was not created by Facebook, but by an independent person using
an add-on application that has been suspended from the site.
“The third-party application that enabled an individual user to create the
offensive poll was brought to our attention this morning,” said Barry Schnitt,
Facebook's spokesman for policy.
Because the application was disabled, the responses to the nonscientific
polls are not available.
The Los Angeles Times said 730 people responded to the poll, but
that Schnitt said he did not know who they were.
“At this time, we don't know,” the Times quoted Schnitt as saying.
“But we assume the developer has some or all of this information.”
Schnitt added: “We're working with the U.S. Secret Service, but they'll need to provide any
details of their investigation.”
The First Amendment Center is an educational organization and cannot provide legal advice.
Ken Paulson is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. He is also the former editor-in-chief of USA Today.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, also is senior vice president of the First Amendment Center, a center of the institute. He is a veteran journalist whose career has included work in newspapers, radio, television and online.
John Seigenthaler founded the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.
Dr. Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute.. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.
David L. Hudson Jr. is an expert in First Amendment issues and a regular contributor to the First Amendment Center's website. Hudson teaches law and was a scholar at the First Amendment Center.