There’s a fascinating NYTimes frontpage article about how jurors are causing havoc in the criminal justice system by using Twitter, Facebook, and other real-time communication tools during a court case (via their smartphones and at home on their computers). Jurors are not supposed to seek outside information related to the case, but with the advent of internet, I’m sure this became tough to avoid. What I think is particularly fascinating is that jurors not only search online, but they post updates on Twitter. Here’s an awesome example:
In the Arkansas case, Stoam Holdings, the company trying to overturn the $12.6 million judgment, said a juror, Johnathan Powell, had sent Twitter messages during the trial. Mr. Powell’s messages included, “oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter,” and “So Johnathan, what did you do today? Oh nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.”
What would inspire someone to write that, I’m not sure. But I think it’s indicative of where our technology is taking us – both for good and bad. I think the real question here is how do we avoid egregious uses of these services. It’s only time (and it’s already well underway) when our online personalities go hand-in-hand with our physical personalities. Employers already use Facebook to research potential employees and their habits, who’s to stop insurers, banks, government agencies, etc to start doing the same (maybe they already do). It’s scary, but it’s happening. I think these kinds of cases demonstrate the lack of understanding many folks have regarding their online presence – just because we communicate electronically on a computer or phone and not to a person right in front of us doesn’t mean that our actions go unnoticed. There is a balance of privacy, but we do need to be held liable for these online actions (in this case taxpayer dollars were wasted due to Mr. Powell’s need to update the world with his sophomoric humor). Lawmakers need to catch up with the technology so we can penalize such behavior, but I think most of them are too busy twittering to notice.
UPDATE: In case you haven’t seen it, check out this link on how not to tweet after getting a job offer.