Police in Corner Brook are investigating two separate cases of threats being made over Facebook.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary on Wednesday said it received two reports from Corner Brook residents — a man, 51, and a woman, 39 — who said they receiving threats and harassing messages on Facebook.
Const. Shawna Park, media relations officer for Corner Brook RNC, said threats over social media are treated the same by police as threats made face-to-face.
'They should keep a copy of any messages they receive, possibly take a screen shot.' - Const. Shawna Park
"Just because it's over the internet doesn't really change things," said Park, who added that a person who receives threatening messages online should report it to the police.
The two cases reported by the RNC on Wednesday are unrelated, said Park.
While the Corner Brook RNC has received several such complaints in recent weeks, Park said police haven't necessarily noticed an overall increase in threats via social media.
"They kind of go in cycles. There are times when we don't get a lot reported, and certain times of the year where we do see an influx of these types of reports," she said.
"Recently we have received a few more than we have been in the past few months," she said.
Park said social media and its uses initially created a learning curve for police officers, but it's now a common topic through their investigation.
"With time, it became second nature to our investigators, and now to receive a threat via social media is something that our officers are well-equipped to investigate and are quite familiar with."
Every case is different, said Park; people making threats on Facebook sometimes use their own personal accounts to do so, and sometimes create anonymous ones for the purpose.
Sometimes the threats come from an acquaintance, sometimes it's from a person the target doesn't know.
The charges laid can also vary depending on the circumstances, said Park, from uttering threats to criminal harassment for a sustained period of making threats. And depending on the seriousness, a person convicted of making threats could be looking at jail time.
Document online abuse, advises RNC
Park advises people to be familiar with privacy and security settings for their social media accounts to not accept friend requests from strangers and to document any abuse sent their way.
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People should also not reply to any threatening messages sent to them over social media.
"They should block that sender and report it either to the internet service provider or the administrator for that social media outlet," she said.
"As well, they should keep a copy of any messages they receive, possibly take a screen shot, because they will need it if they decide to report it to police."
People being threatened should also record the screen name and email, if available, of the person making the threats, said Park.