Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guilt by Twitter

Followers of the blog know that impact of social networking on athletes is a main subject, and I am sure many of you were waiting for comment regarding our own situation here at Arkansas.

Obviously, the coaches and department had to run their course, and those that have kept up in the media know we have not commented on names specifically. I'll honor that here, and say that when it is your school involved, you may not be as free to comment as when it is another.

Here's the extent of what I'm comfortable with today -- we had an athlete make an unfortunate comment on a social networking website. I have not spoken with him directly, but I believe that given what happened, he would just as soon take it back.

Regrettably, on Twitter, that's not possible.

Going back to 2004's presentation, I have preached (and that's an accurate verb choice) that once posted, always available. All that got in the way of recovering previous posts, memos, emails, photos stored on-line, etc., was the amount of forensic skill required.

Since it is a very text message oriented interface, the recovery skill needed to get old Tweets is zero. Three or four websites will do it for you.

For my fellow college media relations professionals, I cannot stress to you enough the need to get that message across to your student-athletes, your coaches, your administrators, your spokespersons. Think not twice, but thrice, before Tweeting. You really can't take it back.

This is not to say that it was not appropriate to remove an offensive or mistaken Tweet (I've done that when I've gotten a score or fact wrong). Just know that anyone can get it, and now you've got two questions to answer -- why did you Tweet that, and all the circumstances around why you removed it.

That's a technical point. What I wanted to implore you to also make sure your student-athletes understand is this cautionary tale from Arkansas. One young man who made a comment was not by all accounts involved in the event he commented upon. But because he did, virtually everyone falsely accused him of participation. He is now guilty by Tweet.

There has been plenty of follow-up coverage on this issue in our regional media, but the fact remains that with some who may have dropped the story after it first broke may still think this individual was involved; not simply a commentator.

No comments: