Texas DPS: Social media companies underreporting potential threats

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas law enforcement may be left in the dark about people making threats online that target schools.

Dale Avant, chief of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, revealed those types of threats are under-reported Monday at the Texas Capitol.

Avant eluded to social media platforms not doing enough to let police know what’s going on.

“In almost all cases where we get tips from from that group [social media], it’s only for immediate exigent circumstances that some act is perceived about to happen right then, or has happened,” Avant said. “Not the threat of something might happen.”

Avant and his colleague, senior manager Kimberly Jones, testified before a joint house committee. They revealed how difficult it is to get information from social media companies about any potential threats to schools.

“That would be concerning to us, and [something] we would normally want to receive a report on,” Avant said.

According to DPS, staff has been tracking what they call “Threat to Life” reports since 2019.

“In that time, we have tracked 1,928 reports,” Avant said.

Out of those reports, Avant said only 34 came from social media companies directly, or indirectly through the FBI.

“The Texas House Committee on the Uvalde shooting substantiates that,” said Rep. Jared Patterson, a Republican who represents the Frisco area, responding to Avant’s testimony claims. “None of his online behavior was ever reported to law enforcement.”

Avant feels social media companies are focused on protecting civil rights and users’ identities.

“When there’s situations that is an exigent threat and — not only do we perceive it, but they [social media companies] perceive it — they are responsive in those cases,” Avant said. “But that is really the exception of when we’re going get information from them.”

Patterson asked Avant if social media platforms could do a better job of working with law enforcement to stop potential threats.

“I think there’s always room for improvement,” Avant said.

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