My local paper had this AP story as above-the-fold front-page news; the headline was “Police: Risk from online rants hard to assess.”

The “risk” from online rants is zero. Online rants are not violence, no matter how many people would like to pretend otherwise, and anyone who tells you they can predict crimes based on social-media spew is a charlatan.

The Portland Press Herald’s online version (the one I linked to, since the BDN’s website doesn’t repost the AP stories they use) was headlined “Finding killers online easy only after the fact” — so far, so good — with the subhead “Meanwhile, rants and hate speech rarely factor into whether someone passes a background check to buy guns.”

That’s the part you want to highlight, Press Herald? That one throwaway sentence in the second paragraph?

Good on the AP’s Lisa Marie Pane for writing about how the usual calls for precrime surveillance of social media are farcical. The headlines are local papers’ editors tacking on their own wishes otherwise. (The AP’s own version is more neutrally titled “Law enforcement faces dilemma in assessing online threats.”)

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