Another Twitter frenzy
I don't know whether Rep. Anthony Weiner sent a lewd photo
of himself to a college student via Twitter. The evidence is mixed: on the one
hand, Weiner's claim that someone else sent the photo as a prank is quite
plausible given security
holes (since fixed) in photo-sharing service yfrog. On the other, the
unfortunately named Democratic congressman's evasive
behavior in the last couple days doesn't exactly scream innocence.
I do, however, want to make two quick points about social
- Twitter is almost five years old, and people
still routinely make judgments about it without understanding how it works.
Rep. Weiner has some questions to answer, but "why
were you following the Twitter account of a young woman you don't know?"
isn't really one of them. A few possibilities based on my own experience: Maybe
she sent him a form message asking him to follow her. Maybe she posted
something interesting once. Maybe he briefly set an application to respond in
kind to all new followers and then changed the setting without bothering to
unfollow them. In any case, one important way Twitter differs from
people follow users they don't know, often for no particular reason.
- An incident like this might tempt you to
criticize social media and pine for the good old days of pre-web journalism.
But as is so often the case, most of the deep research and reporting on this
story hasn't been done by print journalists and broadcasters. It's
by bloggers and Twitter users.
As always, it's important to remember that social media
(like a newspaper or a broadcasting license) is a tool that can be put to many
uses, good and bad. This is simply a particularly colorful example of the
latter--whether the culprit turns out to be Rep. Weiner himself or someone
trying to smear him.
Elsewhere, Ruth Graham compiles
a list of members of Congress for whom this would be a less scandalous