Friday, February 19, 2010

When is it wrong to Tweet?

Okay, just what part of "Do not discuss this case" is unclear? Apparently all of it, at least when it comes to social media.

I know that everyone considers themselves to be armature journalists as soon as they get their hands on those little gadgets that allow them to update social media sites. Suddenly Joe B. Average can send in the first exciting reports of a disaster, or Sara Jane can snap a fast picture with her cell phone and have it up on Facebook before the traditional news media even knows something is happening.

CNN has their I-Reporters. News programs sift through blogs and social media sites for breaking news they missed getting first hand details on. Social media sites gather hundreds of thousands of followers to listen to what people have to say.

But where is the line that should not be crossed? When is the desire to tell everyone what is going on in your life best ignored? How about the court room?

CNN has an article in their Tech section from Wired Magazine on the use of cell phones by jurists to update their Twitter accounts during cases. This is a serious problem that has cropped up in the tech age, and has lead judges to have to be a bit clearer in their instructions to the jury after incidents such as the admission by jurors on a federal drug trial that they were doing Internet research into the case while they were on active jury duty for it. The case ended in a mistrial. Then there was a near mistrial in another case because one of the jurors was updating their Facebook page with trial details in a prosecution case.

With each state court setting their own rules, it has taken time for it to be realized that there is a problem in the system. New instructions from the Judicial Conference of the United States offers up a rather lengthy explanation on what "Do not discuss this case" means when it comes to what platforms the jurors are not to be using in their adherence to the rules:
"You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cellphone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube."
Seems like all of that would go without having to be said, doesn't it? I'm sure that the court room is not the only time that it is inappropriate to be sending out those far too convenient Tweets and updates. Sometimes people need to set aside their desire for immediate gratification of the new grapevine and not gossip about every little thing as soon as it happens.