In a previous article I discussed the perils of using social media, particularly when affiliated with a large news organisation. The article was inspired by the fate of Catherine Deveney, a journalist previously employed by The Age newspaper who lost her job after she tweeted offensive comments during a live television broadcast. Deveney may have lost her job but she didn’t lose her Twitter account, which is a shame because now she has inflamed the wrath of Cardinal Pell.
Deveney tweeted a picture that placed a comment made by the Cardinal on a television show under the image of young boys. The Cardinal was incensed by the implication of the Twitpic, particularly in light of the allegations facing the Church and abuse of minors.
However, the bigger question here is not whether Deveney offended the Cardinal but whether Twitter should be held accountable for defamation. The Cardinal certainly thought so when he began legal proceedings against the company.
Whether Twitter is liable in the future for the comments made by its users is yet to be decided. Whatever the outcome for Twitter it is also worthwhile questioning Deveney’s use of the social media platform. Whilst the tweet was removed and Deveney wrote an apology on her blog, one wonders whether she is the social media equivalent of a ‘shock jock’, those radio presenters who regularly inflame their audiences by manipulating news and opinion to suit their agenda. Or is it that her sense of humour doesn’t always translate very well into the Twitterverse?
Whatever the outcome, it will be a real blow to Twitter users if all our comments are opened up to surveillance. A bit of common sense when we use social media is the best way to protect yourself and avoid unnecessary legal action.
Related article: The Perils of Using Social Media