Teen's Twitter terror 'joke' backfires with airline

A teenager has been arrested after she tweeted American Airlines claiming to be from Afghanistan and saying something 'big' was planned. Photo / Thinkstock
A teenager has been arrested after she tweeted American Airlines claiming to be from Afghanistan and saying something 'big' was planned. Photo / Thinkstock

A 14-year-old Dutch girl who sent a terror threat to American Airlines as a Twitter "joke" has been arrested by police in Rotterdam, it has been reported.

The girl received a torrent of abusive messages on Twitter after her exchange with the airline, in which she pretended to be an al-Qa'ida-member from Afghanistan, was shared thousands of times.

American Airlines responded to her vow to "do something really big" by saying it "takes these threats very seriously" and said the issue would be passed on to the FBI.

The girl, identified only as Sarah, protested that she was just "joking" and that she was from the Netherlands, not Afghanistan. She later suspended her account.

According to local media reports, police in the Dutch city confirmed that she has been arrested in relation to the threat.

The Netherlands-based news service BNO News reported that the 14-year-old was detained "after Rotterdam police's own investigation", not at the request of American Airlines or the FBI.

It is not entirely clear what Sarah was hoping to achieve with the message yesterday, but she presumably could not have been expecting the reply she then received.

Just six minutes after it was sent, American Airlines replied to say her "IP address and details" had been taken.

The exchange was then picked up on by the wider public - @AmericanAir has more than 800,000 followers - and was followed by a flurry of messages from Sarah herself expressing her regret.

Among them, she wrote: "omfg I was kidding"... "I'm so sorry I'm scared now"... "I was joking and it was my friend not me, take her IP address not mine"... "and I'm not from Afghanistan".

Sarah eventually started receiving huge numbers of tweets from strangers, accusing her of everything from being "immature" to outright "racist".

First the original message, followed by her profile itself @QueenDemitrax_ - largely a fan account dedicated to the singer Demi Lovato - were deleted.

The reply from American Airlines was also deleted, and it had seemed unlikely that an FBI investigation would be launched. A spokesperson for the airline told the New York Daily News: "We took it down basically because it generated a lot of traffic. We took it down so we could better focus on our customers."

- UK Independent

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