Monday, July 23, 2012

The Twouble With Twitter

The micro-blogger twitter continues to land many of it's users in trouble.
Most recently to hit the headlines is 17 year old Savannah Dietrich of Kentucky. Savannah was a victim of sexual assault last year by two other teen boys she knew when she passed out after drinking. The boys also allegedly took pictures of the attack and shared them. Dietrich was obviously traumatized by this and said "For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn't go out in public places. You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?"
But now this victim is being charged because the boys who assaulted her plead guilty and got a plea agreement in court in June and Dietrich was upset by this and tweeted about it. Her tweets included the names of her assaulters which directly violates the court which advised everyone at the boys' hearing to not speak about what happened in court or the crime. Dietrich's tweet got her contempt and could land her in jail for 180 days and/or a $500 fine. The young woman says she tweeted because she felt her attackers "got off very easy ... and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end."
Dietrich's desire to have her voice heard seems understandable, but more and more it seems that taking your grievances to twitter and other online media is risky. While the 1st Amendment gives us freedom of speech, it does not protect us from breaking the law with what we say, which is what happened here.
Dietrich's trouble from twitter is becoming an increasing problem. In fact, NYPD (and I'm sure other police departments across the country) has a whole unit that peruses social media to catch criminals. Last spring in Wales a Swansea University student was jailed for over 50 days following a racist tweet about one of the school's athletes. And last year a nurse got into trouble for cruel and insensitive tweets about a patient who she was supposed to take off life support but refused to saying that it would take too much time and effort to deal with the body which would cut into her social life. She then tweeted the next day that she was happy that the patient died while she was off duty. And like in the case of the lazy nurse, twitter has cost many complaining employees their jobs.
Twitter allows everyone the outlet to have a public voice to share and with that power comes the abuse of power that will inevitably lead to trouble from the twittersphere.  I get it, we are all a twitter and want our voice to be heard. But think before you tweet or you could become a jailbird.

And for fun, this video from the hilarious SuperNews perfectly sums up twitter madness:

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