The modern phenomenon of Tweeting to communicate to a wide audience is another form of social networking that has swept people across the globe, much like Facebook.
Tweeting has become the habitual practice of celebrities and sports personalities whom cleverly use Twitter as a platform to communicate to their fans. Lady Gaga has expertly managed to elevate her status to not only the new queen of pop , but also the queen of Twitter with 7 million followers, out-Tweeting Britney Spears. Even corporate entities now use twitter to communicate. We at FrontRow have a Twitter account, FrontRow Talk, which we use to keep our clients informed of interesting and relevant news stories from a legal perspective.
The advantage of Twitter is that it is an instantaneous tool of communication to a mass audience – the equivalent of sending a text message to all the contacts in your mobile phone and address book – but in this case it is to the public at large. However, this can be a double-edged sword as Kevin Pietersen found out last week when he Tweeted a message aimed at the selectors that had dropped him from England’s one day internationals against Pakistan. Pietersen’s Tweet which was allegedly not for public consumption but for a friend said that the decision was “**** up.”
Whilst Pietersen acted quickly and removed the offending Tweet within minutes, the irreparable damage to his reputation had already been done. Despite releasing a public apology, the misjudged Tweet has led to Pietersen facing a disciplinary hearing and a subsequent fine of an undisclosed amount.
A similar fate recently befell the Yorkshire bowler, Azeen Rafiq who similarly criticised the selectors with allegedly abusive language after he was disciplined by the under 19 team earlier this Season. Rafiq was fined £500.00 and banned from all cricket for one month.
You would think that these 2 instances would stop other cricketers in their Tweets, but an investigation has also been underway this week concerning the Tweet of Hampshire all rounder Dimitri Mascarenhas that blasted England’s national selector, Geoff Miller in 2 separate posts on his Twitter page on 5 September 2010. The chairman of Hampshire, Rod Bransgrove yesterday announced that Mascarenhas had been fined £1,000.00 for the Tweet and that in reaching the decision they had taken his previous exemplary record into consideration.
Theoretically Mascarenhas could also face defamation proceedings from Geoff Miller as a Tweet amounts to a publication.
If celebrities and sports personalities are to use Twitter as a mode of communication, they are under a duty to Tweet responsibly.
We at FrontRow have devised the following Tweet etiquette, or what is called “Twittiquette” which are 5 simple guidelines to prevent Tweeters from facing disciplinary action and/or defamation claims resulting from Tweets.
Think Before You Tweet
1. Identify the audience you are communicating to – do not underestimate the wide ranging circulation of your Tweet.
2. Tweet responsibly – check whether you have made any defamatory remarks.
3. Remember that once you Tweet it amounts to a publication – would you be happy seeing your Tweet quoted in print?
4. Double check before youTweet – it will only take a moment and could save you from damaging your reputation.
5. Remember your duty to sponsors – does the Tweet enforce or contradict the image you have cultivated in the media.