Saturday, May 02, 2009

Twitter hyperbole (associated with a "tea party") leads to arrest and prosecution


The “Threat Level” blog on Wired contains a disturbing story about the FBI arrest of an Oklahoma City man for apparently making “threats” with a series of tweats as part of a “tea party” tax protest in his city. The story is by Kevil Poulsen with the link here. The story contains photographs of the tweats with the text (which need not be copied verbatim here). The tweats appear (to me) at least to contain a lot of obvious hyperbole and metaphor and not be intended to be taken literally.

The incident is apparently the first involving Twitter as a microblogging facility. The incident is significant in that people often use Twitter impetuously and quickly, and don’t give a lot of thought to what they say in advance, and may not have a complete log of what they said, unlike the case with blogs or conventional sites. In that sense, the problem resembles what can happen with Chat or with cell phone text messages.

The Wired report contains a link to a story about another arrest over a hyperbolic “threat” made on a Yahoo! message board. It was quickly deleted but nevertheless showed up in many caches.

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