The papers are currently full of the John Terry racism trial as the Chelsea and former England Captain is accused of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand during a match last season.
It seems that whenever there is an event like, this involving a well known personality, that Twitter raises its head.
I have gone on before about the massive influence of social media platforms and twitter in particular.
And we have seen issues arising in this trial.
Rio Ferdinand, brother of Anton, posted a tweet on Monday about the trial. He has about 3m followers. According to the Guardian he was retweeted by 3287 of them. Each of them probably retweeted again. So that means Rio’s tweet would have been read, within minutes, by millions. This obviously raises serious questions about whether it could influence the outcome of a trial and render a fair trial impossible.
In fact that isn’t an issue in this case as the trial is before a magistrate and it is not felt that there is a "substantial risk of serious prejudice or serious impediment to active proceedings". That may just about be the case here –
But it does raise a serious question about the power of twitter that will need to be addressed. If this had been a jury trial it could well have been a different matter. There could then be a risk that if a juror read a tweet from a high profile Premier League Footballer that the proceedings might have been placed at risk. We would then have been looking at serious contempt of court charges.
Once again this is a sobering reminder that you should think first and tweet later. It is so easy to bash out 140 syllables without considering the consequences. But what we say can quickly be read by thousands, at least, and there can be consequences – even for the most well known as could have happened here.
As social medial develops further I think it is inevitable that there will be calls for tighter regulation and we could then see even more twitter based prosecutions.
But the message should be clear enough. If you have something to say just stop, take a deep breath, think about the consequences and who is going to read it.