Blog

Understanding the Twitter crackdown

twitterprotestThe story of Elliot Madison—a New York City social worker who was arrested at the G20 protests in Pittsburgh and charged with essentially hindering the police crackdown on protesters by posting their whereabouts on Twitter—has quickly spread from activist circles and independent media outlets to the mainstream.

Naturally, there’s a bit of a difference in the coverage. The New York Times for instance didn’t mention, as Amy Goodman did in her most recent column, that the information Madison tweeted was public information made available by the police on the Internet. To highlight the unjust nature of his arrest, she quoted Madison comparing the situation to someone being arrested for “essentially walking next to somebody and saying: ‘Hey, don’t go down that street, because the police have issued an order to disperse. Stay away from there.’ ”

Goodman also pointed out that the State Department and President Obama took the opposite stance on Twitter, when protesters in Iran were being arrested for using it in much the same way. They demanded that Twitter delay its system maintenance so that the election protesters could have uninterrupted service.

Hopefully these points raised by Goodman will find their way into the mainstream press, which to it’s credit does not seem to be treating the story like some quirky bit about social networking tools aiding and abetting crime. Articles by the Times and CNN show that they consider it a new and serious trend in police/activist interaction. But it remains to be seen if they will consider it a precedent-setting move by the US government to challenge the limits of free speech.

C’mon, let’s get those Teabaggers riled up on this issue!