NY Daily Post
Today starts the trial of Ronald “Ra Diggs” Herron. The reputed gang leader allegedly ran a crew of drug dealers out of Gowanus projects in Brooklyn New York is on trial for drug charges and murder. He faces life if he is convicted.
One of the key pieces of evidence that the prosecution is trying to use to convict Diggs are his own tweets. Social media is thought to be a sacred ground where what you say is protected as free speech. As absurd as it sounds, using social media as a way to incriminate somebody is not a new thought.
This case was always interesting to me because of their use of social media to attempt to prove that he had something to do with a crime. How can you determine that someone was complicit or the initiator of a crime without them coming out and saying, “I did this.” Anything else should be considered just conversation. That’s how I feel. It seems like lawyers feel different.
A story posted on the Americanbar.org tackles the issue head on.
In the piece, it says “Twitter describes itself as “a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting.”
More importantly, Twitter users communicate using “tweets,” 140-character bursts of information. For litigators, these tweets can be a gold mine, a minefield or a wild collection of information missing an index. The key, of course, is effectively mining tweets to find the important nuggets.
The piece speaks on how tweets can be a “gold mine” for lawyers. In the story they list ways to search a persons twitter stream and justification for why tweets can be used in a prosecution. You can read their full piece here
While Diggs story might seem like something new, it’s not. The more I search the net, the more I find stories where tweets are being used to put a defendants back against the wall.
Tweets were provided as evidence is a case against Occupy Wallstreet protestors. The police were contending that the protestors knew they were supposed to move that their twitter timelines would prove it. The protestors believed that it was against the law. The protestors were found to be in the wrong and their tweets were allowed to be used against them.
There is a fine line we have to walk today when it comes to what you post online. While it seems like what you say on your page should be private and subject to free speech, the more lawyers and judges are getting adjusted to social media, the more they’re deciding that’s not the case.
How will this effect how and what rappers post online? Only time will tell. I think it sets an interesting precedent and should be used as a model that publicists, managers and label heads give to their clients as to what to do and not do online.
With so many people watching what you say nowadays, you’d be better to take a page from Ice T and remember that it’s “freedom of speech, just watch what you say.”
We’ll be covering Ra Diggs and his case and how tweets and social media will play in it as it goes.