Social Media is having it’s own trial by fire. In one of the largest social media trials to date, the Casey Anthony trial in Florida has literally consumed the internet and now her acquittal is the talk of the town.
Earlier this week the jury in the Casey Anthony trial came back with a surprise verdict of not guilty. Immediately, the social media world was abuzz with the news. Twitter was alive with outrage even as the news networks broadcasted the news on TV.
However, amidst all this sensationalism, there are underlying lessons to be learned about social media.
Social Media is a Powerful Marketing Tool
Of course, we often see the power of social media in marketing in many online ventures. However, this trial really demonstrates the effect that happens when social media intersects with traditional media.
The Casey Anthony trial was one of the most publicized trials in history. This is in large part due to social media.
Dubbed “the social media trial of the century” by Time magazine, the case generated untold number of tweets, including from the 9th Judicial Circuit Court itself, where the case was tried. In a sign of the unusual cultural reach of the case, reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted Tuesday after the verdict: “WHAT!!!!???!!!! I am speechless.” (from La Times Story)
Social Media more than anything else spurred the publicity in this trial. While traditional media may have caught the story and moved on to other items, social media really carried this story along. Word of mouth on twitter and facebook kept people interested in the day to day proceedings of the trial. Towards the end, people were riveted by the story and anxiously awaiting the outcome of the verdict.
With the surprise verdict, we now see the other side of social media.
Our justice system has acquitted Casey Anthony, but social media has not.
Should the Justice System be Crowd Sourced?
I thought this was an interesting phenomenon throughout the trial and afterwards.
In essence, this trial and the analysis behind the trial was crowd sourced unintentionally through social media.
In a case as emotionally polarizing as a child murder case, is this really a good thing? What we see now is an outpouring of raw emotion by all the people who have been following the case through social media, but do not have the same insight to the inner workings of the trial as the 12 jury members.
A quick look through twitter for #caseyanthonyverdict will show results such as this:
Of course, many people are angry and they voice their thoughts in social media. And immediately there was a push for changes in the law.
Here’s the danger in crowd sourcing the legal system.
Currently, there’s a new Caylee’s law petition that is being passed around on the internet.
The new proposed law, written by an unemployed retail worker, seems harmless enough. It is simply a law that makes it a crime for a parent to fail to report a missing child. In spirit, it seems to be a good idea, but one has to worry about proposed laws that are spurred by anger and outrage.
Remember, this is likely just the first proposed law to come out of the aftermath of the Casey Anthony trial.
Perhaps there are others in the making that follow the thoughts of this twitterer:
In a trial such as Casey Anthony’s which is based more on our system of reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence, people become angry when they see someone who is acquitted because the evidence is not strong enough to overcome the presumption of innocence. However, that is the fundamental philosophy of our justice system.
Imagine if the verdict itself was crowd sourced. Will our justice system slowly evolve to the “prove you’re innocent” camp?
How long before someone proposes changing the Constitution?
How long before someone proposes changing the justice system to Guilty until Proven Innocent?
Perhaps some things just shouldn’t be crowd sourced.