The consequences of the Facebook group “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” continue to show their ripple effect, although in this case the craziness began before and continued after this particular incident.
Remember the satiric Facebook group that declared May 20th “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day?” The group attracted over 100,000 fans, led Pakistan to ban Facebook for a few days, and provoked more than a few death threats. The admin eventually pulled the pag.
One of those people threatening members of this Facebook group was Zachary Adam Chesser (pictured), who was sentenced Thursday to life prison because of these and other extremist actions. The 21-year-old from Fairfax, Va., had gone from being a typical undergrad student at George Mason University in 2009 to a follower of the radical Islamic group of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be one of the key leaders of Al-Qaeda.
Chesser hasn’t just been sentenced to life prison just because of his Facebook threats to those supporting “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” of course. He admitted to providing information to the Somalian al-Shabaab organization. In addition, it seems he was planning on joining al-Shabaab and tried to board a plane from New York to Uganda, bringing his son along in order to disguise his intentions. Chesser was caught before the flight’s departure.
However, he probably would have been much more difficult to locate and pinned down with evidence had he not been so vocal online. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Chesser used the Internet to convince other Muslims to leave suspicious but ultimately non-threatening small packages near American residencies, so that police would become desensitized to them and then be caught unaware when a real bomb was placed somewhere.
He also admitted to threatening Facebook users who he perceived were mocking Islam.
Since then, he says he is very ashamed of his actions. Prosecutors, on the other hand, argued that because of people like Chesser, Internet users have become more and more afraid to freely express their opinions online, fearful that they be threatened or put on a “black list.”
As a Facebook user, have you thought twice before posting something very offending on your wall, or joining or liking a controversial organization or person?