Twitter Arrests Become Commonplace |

Twitter Arrests Become Commonplace

By Tad Chef / January 23, 2010

This week’s Twitter column comes a day late. I think it doesn’t matter when I post my weekly Twitter post. The important fact is that I do at all and the the quality of the post makes it worth reading. So from now on I won’t be that exact anymore. The weekly Twitter column will stay though. It might appear earlier or later in the week, depending on breaking events for instance.

This week I want to speak about Twitter arrests.

It seems Twitter is exempt from free speech and arrests for Twitter usage become commonplace.

I know this is a business blog and we write about Twitter topics relevant for businesses but this is an issue that should matter for all of us.

When I was a few years younger former rapper and by then rock musician Ice T released a song called “Cop Killer”. In it, not surprisingly, he dealt with the killing of police officers. Although this song was quite controversial even then it was nonetheless treated as a work of art. Moreover it was covered by the right to free speech. You don’t like the police? You can fantasize about killing them as long as you don’t try to do it for real. There were other songs like that, it wasn’t an exception but this one got quite some publicity.

These days you can get arrested as a terrorist for joking on Twitter.

While I appreciate the fact that the police cares about the overall security and safety of travelers this reaction is way scarier than the actual threat of a person joking on Twitter. You know Twitter is a very fast and in a way low quality medium. You can’t be very precise on Twitter. The 140 characters limit makes many messages cryptic and unintelligible. So misunderstandings are pretty common.

The fact that the police listens to your tweets and is quick to raid your home for the slightest misstep sounds very Orwellian. Indeed it might kill this still nascent medium.

Now, returning to our focus on business: People who are afraid to tweet will abandon Twitter and you won’t be able to reach them anymore. Twitter as a business tool depends on the basic free speech rights to joke and tweet in any way you like without being afraid that the police is after you.

We have seen several arrests for Twitter activity or even lack of it in the past, see “man arrested for not using Twitter“. Some more bizarre than others. At least one of them seemed justified to me, when a man used Twitter to repeatedly threaten to commit mass murder.

Somebody needs to tell the police that Twitter is not a surveillance tool but a social network where people socialize online though.

While socializing many people tend to become humorous or sometimes even obnoxious but that still does not mean that they are terrorists. Also the police should be able to sense whether a person is joking or not. Don’t they employ psychologists? In the latest case they had one week to study this person. They could have read all of his tweets to find out more about him. According to Mashable they didn’t even know what Twitter is and how it works.

So the message must be clear: Tweeting is not a crime and free speech must be protected. So before pushing the panic button remember that you are safeguarding a democracy and not trying to stifle free speech.

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