Twitter + Libel = TWIBEL

TWIBEL… it has a fancy ring to it doesn’t it … like the Disney character called Tinkerbell. The only difference is that this is no animated fiction, it’s a real CRIME… the act of committing libel on Twitter.

Libel was one of the first terminologies I was introduced to as a journalism undergraduate under the course title Mass Media Law & Ethics. Even a 2-month diploma crash program in journalism has to take this course on because it is central to the career life cycle of a journalist.

I mean, just one libellous comment in your piece can end the career you have been building for ages, not to mention landing you behind bars and depleting your bank account to the point of over-overdraft.

Dictionary meaning of libel goes thus:

Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you answer the question, “What are you doing?” by sending short text messages 140 

TWIBEL therefore, is when you present a false publication (writing, print, signs, pictures) about a person or entity, that damages that person or entity’s reputation on the social network called Twitter.

It’s amazing how much damage can be wrought with just 140 characters, but it happens.

I will share a few true life examples with you here:

Here is a video of hate-tweets about Sarah Palin, an American politician.

Thanks to improvements in Information and communication technologies, we now live in a surveillance society. The idea behind a surveillance society is that Big Brother is watching. In this digital sphere, you can be tracked within mili-seconds of someone stabbing his/her keyboard.

Did you hear of the British teenager who sent an abusive email to Obama and has been barred from the United States. I bet he did not include his address in the mail like I was taught in formal-letter-writing.

TWIBEL is real.

On March 5th, Ranting in 140 characters cost Courtney Love £265,000, when she was accused of libelling a fashion designer on Twitter. If you think I am joking, this is the story.

In this same March, a Welsh politician however, lost a Twibel suit.

My point is that, Twitter is fast becoming a platform that could lead you into trouble if you don’t watch what you tweet.

At first, only journalists had to be concerned about not being slanderous or libelous, because they were the ‘privileged’ ones with access to the media of mass communication. But in these digital days where everyone is a (citizen) journalist, I think everyone needs a crash course on Mass Media Law & Ethics.

Sometime yesterday, a trending topic started on Twitter about virginity tests being conducted in a particular school. The story has been confirmed to be false, but the damage to the reputation of that entity is sealed. If charges are pressed, even your deleted tweets would be found wanting.

The morale of my post is,watch what you say on the Cybersphere. It may be a free community, but Big Brother is watching and gathering data about you.

For true journalists and citizen journalists who are interested in steering clear of libellous journalism, I found this material on how to verify information online – Online Journalism Blog .

Enjoy the rest of the week 🙂

(I bear this Cross… Alone [short story] part 2 is still in the works…coming soon)


2 thoughts on “Twitter + Libel = TWIBEL

  1. Fani.edas says:

    hahaha…well said, i’m sure people in ur cyber world’ would be able to decode this better..but anewais i understand what u are driving at, social networking has its downside..In as much as it gives u a platform to air out ur opinions/thots and whatever it is..some people actually dont think before they type some stuff and some people also make it their business to spread false gist about things..i dont know what they hope to achieve from this and the sad thing is some actually think by taking part in such negativity it makes them cool..with reference to ur almost ‘last sentence’..I totally concur with the ‘Big brother is watching and gathering data about u ‘ bit…

  2. […] Twitter + Libel = TWIBEL ( […]

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