Friday, 12 November 2010

How to avoid joining the Twitter Two

The Twitter community is learning the hard way what print journalists are taught from Day 1 – irony hardly ever works. The clear joke you hear inside your head is easily lost on the page and you run the risk of being taken literally. Especially so in a world where officials are not encouraged to think for themselves when judging whether a threat is real or ironic. More so if your wit is limited to 140 characters.
This has been the fate of two recent tweeters. Both were clearly joking from the off and yet found themselves in hot water.
Paul Chambers threatened to blow up an airport and Gareth Compton called for a Muslim journalist to be stoned to death. The law intervened raising freedom of speech issues.
The response has been partisan with Chambers winning support internationally, while Compton has been hung out to dry. I have sympathy for neither.
Context is everything. If either tweet found its way into a stand-up comedian’s routine in front of an audience then all’s well - if not very funny.
It has always been wrong to shout ‘fire’ in a cinema and now if you tell a customs’ officer you have a bomb in your wash bag you won’t be catching your flight.
This is the world we live in today where common-sense brushes up against terror and political correctness.
Finding the right balance is always going to be difficult. It should be possible to frame legislation that distinguishes, say, between serious hate crime and name calling in a primary school playground. But you can’t guarantee those policing the rules will necessarily appreciate subtleties as Chambers and Compton have found to their cost.
The other handy reporters’ rule of thumb is ‘if in doubt, leave it out’. Think about it the next time you tweet.

1 comment:

  1. OK GC. I am with you, says Jaffa. As the PM, David Cameron said, [words to the effect]that too much twittering leads to twats. Well he got away with it[just]!


What do you think? GC