Why Are So Many People Facing Jail Time Lately For Tweets?

We told you about the Turkish pianist, Fazil Say, who faces jail time for allegedly mocking Islam on Twitter. Then today we read about four people being arrested for allegedly defaming Bahrain’s king on Twitter. And there was that student jailed not too long ago for racist tweets and don’t even get me started on the Olympics.

What’s going on? Are governments cracking down on Twitter or is social media slowly chipping away at our common sense?

People seem absolutely shocked when they hear about folks getting arrested for tweets and THAT is the part that’s absolutely shocking.  Social media in general, and Twitter specifically, is not an invisibility bubble where one can post whatever they want without consequence.

While you certainly can (and should) post whatever you like, unless you’re a freedom fighter or someone who is just hellbent on testing the boundaries of free speech, if it isn’t something monumentally worthwhile to you, you should think twice before clicking “tweet.”

Even if jail time isn’t threatened, your actions online could threaten your livelihood (like Reddit’s best known troll who was recently fired from his job after being exposed) or your posts could even threaten your life. I won’t link to stories supporting that one because it’s too gruesome and I want to avoid folks posting “don’t blame the victim” flames.

So here are some unsolicited common sense tips for your tweets:

  • If you’re overly fond of the F word, rethink that relationship. It’s vulgar in any professional context and you know it, come on. So while the occasional F-bomb may bring in a few chuckles, your edgy overuse will likely be frowned upon by potential employers. Trust me.
  • Don’t tweet that naked pic. Someone will figure out it’s you eventually (they always do) and your future significant other’s mom will see it. So will your first grade teacher. And your dentist. Ick.
  • If your self-description includes any of the “ists” (racist, sexist, animalist . . .) try to keep that stuff to yourself. Same goes for fetishes. Or take it to Craigslist. Twitter is not the place for such things.
  • Don’t mock your King (or whatever angry royalty that governs you) or Islam (or whatever angry religion you follow) on Twitter – or anywhere online for that matter. Or if you do, don’t act shocked about the fallout. Yes, we agree that it shouldn’t happen and you should be able to say what you want about whatever you want, but that’s not how the world works and you know it. So take your stand if you like, but realize you ARE taking a stand and be ready for what comes next (jail, angry mob, death threats, etc.).

What would you add to this list? And do you think that avoiding these tweet topics is good advice or overly cautious?

(Jail image from Shutterstock) 

@MaryCLong maryclong@digitalmediaghost.com Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.