NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - State Police say they have been busy checking out a rash of social media threats against schools and other public institutions that in most cases turn out to be false.
They say anyone who spreads false threats on social media could be prosecuted, and they urge posters to be careful in an environment that has been stirred up after recent school shootings
From the North Shore to Lafourche Parish, law enforcement has been busy since the Florida school shooting, chasing down threats.
"We have seen an uptick in threats through social media on public institutions, and schools," said Trooper Dustin Dwight with Louisiana State Police.
This week, officers arrested one student at Grace King in Metairie, as well as other students in Lafourche and Ponchatoula. But for the most part, authorities say offenders post threats on social media that are not substantiated.
"It's a problem we are seeing throughout the state, and any threat is going to be taken seriously," said Dwight.
Several students now face terrorizing charges under a law that may also apply to anyone sending false threats. Those threats can spread instantly on social media platforms that are constantly expanding.
"There's no denying social media's power. Since 2010, new Facebook users have grown 300%. For Twitter, 511%, and new Instagram users have grown by 233% since 2013," said Sarah Hugg-Santorino, a social media expert with Gambel communications.
Officials urge anyone who perceives a real threat to call 911, and they advise all to re-post or re-tweet responsibly.
"If you see something that scares you, reach out to law enforcement...They are still trying to figure out what to do with this huge amount of information that they are seeing and not seeing on social media," said Santorino.
If users post or share any threats, either real or bogus, police say they could be prosecuted.
"Don't spread unsubstantiated threats through social media. People spreading them knowing they are fake could face prosecution under the terrorizing law," said Dwight.
But with so much at stake, not sharing information, could be tough.
"Rather than re-tweeting, check on your kid and call the school and see if everything is okay," said Santorino.
In some cases, parents have actually pulled kids from school after false threats.
State Police say anyone convicted of terrorizing, could face up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.
They also say if you see something, send something. And there's an app for that.