I’m a big fan of the social media website Twitter, you may have noticed. I love how it’s instant, how it’s just short sharp information and how it can start conversation around the world. What I love most is the fact that Twitter is public, but it’s something I think some people need to learn.
One such person is Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport employee (or as The Guardian are describing her, the woman who put the ‘twit’ in Twitter). Sarah was clearly oblivious of the fact that Twitter is openly accessible to anyone, not just the 700 people who followed her. She therefore saw no problem in tweeting in November last year that her course leader at the time was “mental” and following that up by attacking government “spin” and waste in Whitehall.
No problem, that is until the Daily Mail and The Independent on Sunday ran her tweets as a story in their papers. Then she started to see the error of her ways and pursued a battle against the papers through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
But it was too late. As the PCC correctly ruled today, Twitter is a public resource and anything written on it is free pickings for the press. It’s a global community and ANYTHING that is posted on it is likely to be seen by anyone around the world, not just your followers.
As Steven Abel of the PCC puts it “the commission decided that republication of material by national newspapers, even though it was originally intended for a smaller audience, did not constitute a privacy intrusion.” And now this has happened once, it’s set a precedent and means future cases are more than likely to go the way of the press.
So perhaps many people out there should start to take note and only publish what they are prepared for anyone to see. I’ve seen several shocking things on Twitter, I won’t republish them here, but it just concerns me that so may people want to stick their whole life online for everyone to see forever. Let’s not forget, a quick Google search could easily show your employer what you’ve been saying about them.
Twitter is not a locked/private platform like Facebook and it’s better for it, I can find out much more and enjoy many more entertaining conversations thanks to this, but it comes at a price. You should only put stuff about you that you want the whole world seeing, if you don’t want people to know, don’t put it online!
Of course you can make your profile ‘private’, but surely that defeats the object of the wonder that is Twitter. And people can still ReTweet, right?!
Sarah Baskerville is one such person who now has a private profile, but it’s too little too late. Just remember the internet is written in permanent marker and short of an electromagnet/solar catastrophe, it’ll be there forever!