The influence of trial by twitter

March 10, 2016

One tweet can change the most highly upheld reputation for better or worse. The power and impact of social media grows everyday. The term trial by Twitter reflects the influence social media has gained on case trials.

“It’s become more popular throughout social media because it’s so easy to take sides on the Internet,” junior Paulina Suarez said.

      Social media has given people a platform to publicly express their feelings and opinions, providing an opportunity for them to say whatever they want without consequence. Before, if a tragedy occurred, Twitter followers were more inclined to show their concerns and sympathy. Now decisions can be determined by thousands of uninformed judges before the case even reaches a judge’s desk.  

Recently an ongoing case between pop star Kesha and Dr. Luke, her music producer, gained attention through social media, especially through Twitter. Dr. Luke allegedly raped Kesha and the trial’s recent decision has spurred controversy, with Kesha being disallowed from releasing new music.

A large campaign against Dr. Luke spread across Twitter with the #freeKesha. Dr. Luke’s lawyer denies all allegations and accuses Kesha for using trial by Twitter to smear the music producer’s name. Notable artists such as Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande showed their support for Kesha and Taylor Swift donated $250,000.

“Influential people may induce ideas towards the public that aren’t entirely true, affecting the outcome for the defendant,” sophomore Anastasiya Dudaryk said. “This can create a biased opinion within the people and could be dangerous if used incorrectly.”

In 2014 Justine Sacco, a public relations director at InterActiveCorp (IAC), tweeted a satirical tweet before her trip to South Africa. Many found the statement racist and offensive. The tweet seemed harmless to her until she landed and her phone began blowing up with tweets. The world turned against Sacco through the use of social media, using every possible insult to make their point and it subsequently became the number one worldwide Twitter trend.

Sacco’s life turned upside down after the incident. She lost her job almost immediately due to the widespread criticism. Sacco explains that she never meant for anyone to take the tweet literally and she only expected her 170 followers to see it.

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