Twitterati, take note: everyone is innocent until proven guilty
WE HAVE to talk about Twitter. Not for the first time, like an unruly teenager that won’t listen to common sense or obey the rules, it’s been treating its rights and privileges as if they were absolute and irreversible.
I’ve been on Twitter about five years now and I’ve uploaded my share of dumb tweets, a fair few I’ve subsequently regretted, and been responsible for the occasional witty one too (even if I do say so myself).
But I’ve always tried to stay within the looser bounds of what is considered decent and fair in a civilised, tolerant society.
Which brings me to a particular hashtag that grew legs and infamy over the weekend and cast a net deep into uncharted waters with little account taken of the possible consequences.
I’m talking about the #irishweinsteins thread which tossed around vague allegations about sexual abuse spiced with malice and conjecture to conjure up hazy mugshots and possible jigsaw identifications of individuals who, it goes without saying, had no comeback.
The Court of Twitter doesn’t have defence counsels, but it does have a resident jury of baying knuckle-draggers.
It is difficult to trace the DNA of any hashtag that spreads like an Australian bushfire, but there were some well-intentioned people who should have known better supplying it with credibility, oxygen and encouragement.
If anyone has unresolved issues or concerns about sexual intimidation, discrimination or worse in their professional lives – and we know there are still plenty of sleazebags out there – then they should indeed demand justice.
But smears, whispers, nods and winks on social media are not the way to go about getting resolution or closure.
There are places where people can get support, seek advice. And we have gardaí, we have a DPP, we have courts.
These are the routes. In a democracy, the only ones.
We also have a defamation law which, as every print and broadcast journalist is well aware, knows how to throw its weight about when prodded.
It’s perhaps time that those who wilfully abuse social media got a tap on the shoulder too.
Even though it is boring, uncool and, well, so analogue … everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I know, what a drag.