This has been both a fascinating and frightening week in the world of Social Media. For those of you not blessed with the friend that is Twitter, let me fill you in a bit..
In January a tweeter made a joke.. a poor joke some would say but a joke nonetheless. This led to a criminal conviction, I kid you not.. 140 characters bashed out on a laptop in mere seconds, has cost a man his job, thousands of pounds in legal fees and fines and he now has a criminal record. What was the joke I hear you cry? This one..
“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport skyhigh!!”
See, not really funny is it, taken out of context.. To the regular followers of Paul Chambers’ tweets, it showed his frustration, nerves and excitement about flying to meet a lady the following week that he was very smitten by. To an outsider, it seems to have been viewed as a serious security threat. Although, I am pretty sure terrorists do not generally give a week’s notice and their real names when making bomb threats.
Judge Jacqueline Davies deemed fit to uphold the original conviction when it came to appeal before her this week. It worries me that Judges such as Ms Davies do not specialise in a chosen field, almost like GPs they rely on advice given to them on the day, rather than having prior experience and knowledge of the topic. (Here is the full Judgment)
Following the upholding of the original judgement, a Twitterstorm was evoked, with over 20,000 people tweeting Paul Chamber’s words with the hashtag #IAmSpartacus. Paul is, I believe planning to take the case to the High Court and we will back him all the way, not just as Spartacus but financially and if need be, physically at the court-house.
( Picture via @Crispian_Jago #TwitterJokeTrial #IamSpartacus)
Another Twitter story is the case of the Tory councillor Gareth Compton who, as above, made a joke. This one was, in my opinion far more offensive and crass but again, when isolated, the single tweet is menacing. The important difference here is that, unlike Paul, this author is an elected representative and should really know better! If you are in a position of power, demanding respect then you should be above reproach.
Mr Compton was responding to a radio interview he was listening to, as so many of us tweeters do.. we commentate on TV, Radio, something that our parents have said, what our lunch is.. Gareth Compton has been arrested but was released on bail, presumably as the police do not see him as a real, physical threat to the person the tweet made reference to. He has also been suspended from the Conservative Party. (I won’t link to nor repeat his tweet as I find it particularly offensive and racist)
Then came this article today by Quentin Letts, published in the Daily Mail which has thrown another angle into the mix.. A tweeter known as @Baskers has been publicly “named and shamed” at the will of a journalist. Although Sarah openly used her photograph and real name on her twitter biography, she also said the following: “I’m a Civil Servant, but this is my personal account & it’s my own personal views, not the Depts.”
Sarah not only tweets about her day-to-day life but also writes a good blog on topics that affect her, as many of us do. She recently wrote about the effect of government cuts to her department and her frustration about the Civil Service being attacked in the press.
So why are Sarah’s tweets and blogs so important to a Daily Mail journalist? Is he seriously trying to protect the Civil Service’s reputation by reporting her words to her bosses or is there something deeper going on here? I thought it was odd that Sally Bercow was brought into the article as being a friend of Sarah’s.. she doesn’t really seem relevant to the piece? However, having looked at negative previous posts by Mr Letts about Mrs Bercow, she is perhaps the key and Twitter can relax and tweet away as usual…
So, what are we to do Twitter? David Allen Green aka @jackofkent has advised us to “tweet and delete” as we go along. I can see his point. Future employers for example are already using Google to check out potential employee’s. Are we risking our own future’s by tweeting and even chosing to “like” something on Facebook?
I think of Twitter and this blog as my diary, as do many other users and I don’t want to delete my tweets! However, even anonymity can’t protect you if someone is determined enough to find out who you really are and where you work. (As I know to my cost, anything written on the internet stays there forever to be interpreted as the reader sees fit, particularly if they have a hidden agenda).
This wont make me popular but I would advise you all to remove your first or surname’s from your Twitter account, dont tweet from work unless you are on a scheduled break nor use your company name, Big Brother really is watching you..
Or.. you can say “Freedom of expression is my right, guaranteed to me by Article 10. If you want it you can take it from my cold dead hands. But if you try, remember #IAmSpartacus. Because my name is Legion, and I am many.” < Awesome blog post from @gaijinsan21