Blog Post

Arrested for Tweeting

Even though I just argued that we should pay attention to technology beyond social media and computers, I can't pass this one up. A man was recently arrested for tweeting the locations of police to G-20 protesters. If you read the Huffington Post, you may already know this, but this Ars Technica post (and the New York Times piece it links to) provides significantly more detail. Eliot Madison, the self-described anarchist in question, was apparently using a police scanner to warn protesters about which areas to avoid:

Madison had been found using a police scanner and Twitter to help numerous protesters avoid police during the Group of 20 summit and has now been charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility, and possession of instruments of crime.

His lawyer, of course, argues that he did nothing wrong at all. The Ars Technica piece suggests that maybe protesters should go back to using lower-tech, less visible methods of communication. Whether Madison actually did anything illegal is, of course, up to the courts to decide, but even if they find him innocent, the arrest demonstrates just how public social media makes communication. No doubt he thought he was doing something quite clever, using this all-the-rage technology to provide timely (hello, real-time communication) information to those whose cause he supports, but forgot that, even if people aren't following you, they can still read your tweets.

The comments on the Ars Technica piece are especially interesting, ranging from calling the US a police state, noting that we wanted Iranian protesters to use Twitter for the same purpose, supporting the police response, and a lot of arguing that there's no way what he did was illegal (though I doubt any of the commenters are lawyers). One thing most aren't discussing is the fact that it was the FBI that raided his house and arrested him, not the local police. I don't know what to make of that fact, but it's interesting, nonetheless.

Anyway, I don't want to discuss the politics here, only point out that this demonstrates a fascinating collision of new media, actual protest, police actions, and global politics. No doubt such intersections will become more common.


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