Can Tweeting Be Like Yelling “Fire” In A Theater?

There’s been a lot of cases circling around social media and social responsibility lately.  Two people were jailed in the UK for four years over a Facebook event related to the riots, and now Gerardo Buganza, the interior secretary for Veracruzstate in Mexico, said it could very well be the “Twitter terrorism” caused by two people who allegedly spread false reports of gunmen attacking schools and kidnapping children.

According to Mashable, “those reports caused such panic when parents scrambled around the city to get to their children that there were dozens of car accidents and emergency phone lines were jammed.”

Yelling Fire In A Theater?

Anyone who is a proponent of the first amendment in the USA knows that the one thing you can’t do is yell fire in a theater. But the two people in question are  a private school teacher and a radio presenter, and now face 30 years in prison for charges under terrorism laws. And, both claim that they only tweeted what they saw elsewhere on the Internet.

Yes, there is some responsibility that comes with tweeting, but, there’s also so much room for error, retweeting, even your account being hacked. It’s not the same as yelling fire in a theater, it’s more complicated than that as far as I can see. Luis Arenas, who lives in the Veracruz area had this to say:

“This wasn’t made on purpose, the people who tweeted that msgs where just fathers and friends.. the thing is that politicians want to distract all the people attention by telling that Twitter is not a reliable source of news because twitter make government look bad in security matters. When in the past 3-4 months have saved a lot of lives.. we are facing a lot of problems between two sides of drugs bands and many lives have been taken, twitter is saving people lives.”

Gossip Is A Crime?

Think of it this way. Twitter, although often a perfectly good source of information is often the quickest vehicle to spread a rumor. If gossip becomes crime, I shudder to think what is next. Social media is viral in nature, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, but get people too scared they are being watched or listened to, and it will die as quickly as it sprung to life. A word of advice, while the jury is still out on this case, I’d watch what you tweet.

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Tammy is the editor of this fine blog, and the CEO of MarketMeSuite, the premium Social Media Inbox for Small Businesses. Go on, you can even use it for free! You can follow Tammy on Twitter @Tammykfennell.