Monday, November 28, 2011

Kansas twitter incident: is it ok to tweet something that didn't happen?

Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway was attending a Youth in Government program in Topeka, KS and tweeted: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person (hash)heblowsalot." In reality, she made no such comments to Brownback.

Predictably, some attention was directed to Sullivan after Brownback's people learned of the tweet.

Separate from Sullivan's opinion of Brownback, is it all right to publish something that is false? Is it true that the tweet has helped "open up dialogue" about free speech in social media?


It was Brownback, not Sullivan, who apologized. From

She said she was just joking with friends, but Brownback's office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor's name, contacted the youth program. Sullivan said she was called to the principal's office for the first time ever and told to apologize in writing to the governor.
"My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize," Brownback said in a statement Monday. "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."
The reaction exemplifies what Bradley Shear, a Washington, D.C.-area social media attorney, called an example of the nationwide chasm between government officials and rapidly evolving technology.
"This reflects poorly on the governor's office," Shear said. "It demonstrates their P.R. department and whoever is dealing with these issues need to get a better understanding of social media in the social media age. The biggest problem is government disconnect and a lack of understanding of how people use the technology."

The apology revolves around "freedom of speech" and does not get into the matter that Sullivan never actually did what she tweeted.


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