The U.S. Secret Service has opened an investigation into an online poll that appeared on Facebook over the weekend asking users whether they thought President Obama should be assassinated.
The poll, created through a third-party application on the popular social networking site, posed the question: “Should Obama Be Killed?”
Users were offered the choice of responses: “Yes”; “Maybe”; “If he cuts my healthcare”; and “No.”
Screen shots of the poll surfaced on Sunday at the Political Carnival blog.
A Facebook spokesman said the company learned of the poll Monday morning.
“The application was immediately suspended while the inappropriate content could be removed by the developer and until such time as the developer institutes better procedures to monitor their user-generated content,” Barry Schnitt told InternetNews.com.
“We’re working with the US Secret Service but they’ll need to provide any details of their investigation,” Schnitt said.
Shortly after Facebook pulled the app, the company received an e-mail from the Secret Service, and provided the agency with the developer’s contact information.
“We are aware of it and we will take the appropriate investigative steps and measures,” Darrin Blackford, a spokesman for the Secret Service, told InternetNews.com. Blackford declined to comment further on the investigation.
The application in question was a generic polling service, which enabled users to create their own polls using a template.
Since the application was a forum for user-generated content, the poll about assassinating the president cannot be traced to the developer, Jesse Farmer, who spoke with the Secret Service about the incident yesterday.
Farmer did not immediately respond to requests for comment, though he posted the following tweet about his talk with the investigators:
“The conversation with the SS was fine. If the goal was to resolve the issue + inform the SS, the way it went down was suboptimal.”
A Secret Service source told InternetNews.com that while the harsh criticism of U.S. officials comes fast and loose on the Internet, the Obama poll is believed to be one of the most direct threats to a sitting president the agency has encountered on a social networking site in the United States.
Despite the overblown talk that can sometimes dominate online communities like Facebook, the source said that the Secret Service has to take the threat seriously and “run out all the leads.”
The investigation is being coordinated through the agency’s Internet division based in its Washington headquarters.