Our colleagues at LA Weekly's news blog The Informer tipped us to the fact that news and pop culture blogs were all aflutter with a “Rebecca Black Death Threats” story that everyone (news organizations, reputable newspapers, content-farming blogs, etc.) was copying and pasting around.
We looked at a few of the luridly headlined “Rebecca Black Death Threats” posts and a few things didn't make much sense.
- Police said on Tuesday they were investigating two death threats against 13-year-old Internet sensation Rebecca Black over her low-budget music video “Friday.” The threats were made sometime in March, after “Friday” became a YouTube hit and went viral as a web phenomenon, Anaheim Police spokesman Rick Martinez said.
- “In essence the threats were related to getting the music off the Internet or they were going to kill her,” Martinez said. “We can't validate how serious they are, but we do take it seriously,” he said.
- Martinez said officers were “keeping an extra eye out” for Black as they investigated the messages, which were made through her Los Angeles-based production and management companies.
- One of the death threats was made by phone and the other by email, he said.
- Martinez said that investigators had not yet identified the person or persons behind the threats, but that they could face criminal charges. “We're going to investigate and determine, number one, the source of the comments and then based on the investigation determine what intent was and where we go from here,” he said. “If we believe they were actually intended as threats we will work toward prosecution”
As we said, we had questions:
How do you “get something off the Internet”?
Is it common for police to have detectives working on random internet “we're gonna kill you” messages?
If the threats were made last month when “Friday” went viral, why is this news item making the rounds now?
Did Rebecca Black herself or her family report these threats?
And, most importantly, aren't Rebecca Black and the production companies who wrote the song and made the video suing each other right now?
So, we called Anaheim Police spokesperson Sgt. Rick Martinez, who very patiently answered our questions. Here are his answers:
Is it common for the Anaheim police department to investigate random internet threats? Did it make a difference that Rebecca Black is a viral celebrity?
It's not the issue of being a celebrity. Whenever there are criminal threats, that's against the law. She lives in our city and goes to school here, so we take it seriously.
Why is this being investigated now?
This not real brand-new. When the video went viral that's when these things came in. It involved–I don't have the details here–a management company and a production company. This was week's ago. Somebody got a phone call and somebody got an email. I'm not sure which one got which. I don't know specifically.
A detective had been looking into it for weeks, but until last Friday I didn't know about [the threats]. Then last Friday we got a phone call from the Smoking Gun website, who were asking if there was any police activity related to Rebecca Black. That's when I looked into it and found out the detective had been working on these two threats.
So the Smoking Gun was the first news outlet looking for this story?
Yeah, the first time I had been aware we had been working on this case. But if someone, anyone, makes a death threat it's against the law.
Are you aware Rebecca Black and her family and her production company are currently in litigation over the profits of “Friday”?
No, I was not aware of that.
Who reported the threats to you back in March?
I couldn't answer that.
Has the police been contacted by Rebecca Black or her family about these threats?
No, we haven't been contacted by them.
And there you have it folks: regardless of what you read elsewhere, this is what's going on about those “Rebecca Black Death Threats”:
A production company (which might be the one Rebecca Black is fighting with in court right now over money) got some vague, unreasonable “Take this off the internet” threats weeks ago, someone called the cops, and they started looking into it as a routine case.
Then last Friday, as the Smoking Gun needed something Rebecca Black-related to post because it was FRIDAY FRIDAY GETTING DOWN ON FRIDAY, they called Anaheim and found this odd item and it blew up all over the Internet.