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Think before you tweet – lessons from Paris Brown

Think before you Tweet: Britain’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown may be hanging on to her £15,000 job having apologised for her ‘stupid, immoral’ tweets, but isn’t it a timely reminder of the impact of social networking?

The loose talk of teenagers isn’t news – it has always been thus – but now foolish words are recorded for posterity and what was once an aside in the school corridor is now a public posting to millions worldwide.  Of course, grown-ups are much more sensible: we evaluate, we review, we consider the consequences of our communication and then we press send.  Don’t we?

Twitter is a fantastic communication tool: its immediacy makes it ideal for spreading news quickly; it’s free exposure and it can bolster your online presence.  All good!  But one tweet in anger, one word of exaggeration, one slip on the keypad and beware the tidal wave of repercussions.

Drunken football fans have found themselves in the dock for posting racist tweets; frustrated travellers have been fined for sending messages of ‘menacing character’; international cricketers have successfully sued for libellous comments on Twitter and people who tweeted photographs allegedly of a child killer have been charged with contempt of court.

The majority of people, particularly young people, have no idea of the legal consequences of commenting on social networking sites.  Be warned, it’s a media law mine-field!

Posting on Twitter or Facebook is like publishing in a newspaper, but without an editor and without it becoming tomorrow’s chip paper. Publications online can be difficult to remove and should prospective employers or clients feel inclined to hit the search button, your entire tweeting past can be laid bare.

Paris Brown may have attempted to explain her tweets as young people’s language, but there’s a lesson here for us all in this social media age: think before you tweet!

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