Blog Post

The 10 Riskiest Words to Use on Twitter

It wasn't a criminal record that caused two British tourists to be barred from entering the U.S. last week - it was two joking tweets about "destroying America" and "digging up Marilyn Monroe" that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found suspicious.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and his friend Emily Bunting, 24, were approached by armed guards shortly after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport last Monday. DHS agents put them in handcuffs and said they had been flagged as a potential threat because of a tweet Van Bryan sent a few days before leaving the UK which read: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America."

Van Bryan insisted that the term "destroy" was British slang for "party," but the agents were not convinced.

They also confronted him about another tweet in which he said: "3 weeks today, we're totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!"

The DHS confiscated their passports and federal agents searched their baggage.

"The officials told us we were not allowed in to the country because of Leigh's tweet. They wanted to know what we were going to do," Bunting told the Mail. "They asked why we wanted to destroy America and we tried to explain it meant to get trashed and party."

She added: "I almost burst out laughing when they asked me if I was going to be Leigh's lookout while he dug up Marilyn Monroe."

But there was nothing funny about the full body search the two underwent, or the five hours of interrogation they endured before being put in a van with illegal immigrants and locked up overnight.

"I kept saying to them they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet but they just told me 'you've really f***** up with that tweet boy'," Van Bryan said.

He went on to describe his ordeal: "When I was in the van I was handcuffed and put in a cage. I had a panic attack but the worse was yet to come. When we arrived at the prison I was shoved in a cell on my own but after an hour, two huge Mexican men covered in tattoos came in and started asking me who I was. They told me they'd been arrested for taking cocaine over the border.When the food arrived on the tray they took it all and just left me with a carton of apple juice."

Officials came back for them 12 hours later and drove them to the airport where they were put on a plane back to the U.K.

Van Bryan's story just added fuel to the growing fire of criticism being leveled at the DHS for the false accounts it set up on Twitter which are used to scan for "sensitive" words and for tracking the people who use them.

Electronic Privacy Information Centre, an online privacy group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request last April for documentation on the DHS's scanning policy and was forced to sue when the department ignored the request.

All that is known thus far is that certain words are deemed as being sensitive by the DHS. They include:

• Illegal immigrant • Outbreak • Drill • Strain • Virus • Recovery • Deaths • Collapse • Human to animal • Trojan

When the DHS finds an account using these terms, they begin to record personal information about the sender. Until the DHS provides more information, it remains unknown as to how this information is used, or who the DHS shares it with.

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