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Some Jokes on Twitter Fall Flat

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

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When Social Media Goes Wrong

Journalists are encouraged to use social media. The death of Michael Jackson and Whitney Housten were tweeted before any major news organisation was able to get to the story. If a news organisation is slow to respond to breaking news then they will become obsolete. However, the use of social media for profressional journalists working for a news organisation is somewhat murky.

Catherine Deveney, a former columnist for The Age, lost her job after she sent a series of tweets during a Logie awards night in 2010. Whilst tweeting during the awards is considered part of the job, the comedian Will Anderson used Twitter to joke about the awards ceremony, Catherine Deveney’s tweets were considered offensive. The Age received many complaints about the content of the tweets and she lost her job.

1/ Read the tweets sent by Deveney and discuss whether you believe her use of Twitter was inappropriate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Deveny#Twitter_comments_controversy
2/ Did she break the journalism code of ethics, if so, which one?
3/What standards should be established for journalists using Twitter or any other form of social media?