Guest post by Randall Ryder
A Texas District Attorney has vowed to tweet the names of individuals arrested for drunk driving in an attempt to reduce the number of offenses. Arrests and pending criminal cases are a matter of public record. In addition, many newspapers print police reports, although they usually leave out people’s names. Is this crossing the line, or a solid method to cut down on drinking and driving?
Critics say this is a bad idea because people are wrongly arrested all the time. Once the info has been tweeted, there is no going back, and the damage has been done. I have yet to see a retraction on Twitter, and I doubt it would be very effective.
Twitter is a much different animal than a public newspaper. Twitter is nearly instantaneous, whereas the newspaper is a bit slower. Twitter has already been blamed for a number of incorrect statements about celebrities or athletes getting into trouble or even dying. Newspapers generally require a source and verification, whereas Twitter can be used by anyone, who can write anything.
On the other hand, there is some deterrent value to sending the Tweets. Spreading the news in the hopes of shaming individuals may have a powerful effect on future or repeat offenders. Most people charged with crimes, especially DUI’s, are ashamed and embarrassed about what they did. The more people who know, the less likely an individual is inclined to repeat the offense.
Social media, like Twitter, can be a powerful tool. Hopefully, in this case, it will be used for the greater good.