Just before midnight on the 17th of June 2010, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced to the world that he had given the green light for the execution of a convicted murderer, by firing squad.
While this is not an unusual announcement in a state which champions the death penalty, Mr Shurtleff announced this on his Twitter account.
He wrote three posts in all.
The first was about the possible decision he may have to make. The post telling the world he had given the execution the go-ahead was the second. The third tweet could be seen as even more shocking, as he gave notification of a press conference and a link to watch the conference live, following the execution.
The case of Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner was convicted of killing a lawyer while attempting to flee court over another murder charge. It was his choice to be executed by firing squad, and is only the third such execution since 1976. Utah has now revoked the option of being executed by firing squad. Mr Shurtleff has since written comments to his critics on his Twitter page. ‘I believe in an informed public. As elected official I use social media to communicate directly with people,’ he stated last month.
Is this use of social media right or wrong?
Mr Shurtleff believes he is using modern media to inform his electorate of his continuing commitment to the policies that got him elected, but is Twitter an appropriate forum for this kind of announcement? Social networking sites were originally designed to keep people in contact with individuals they would otherwise have no, or very little, communication with.
Social networking is now fully utilised by businesses, to spread the word of their products and services, trying to tailor these to the profiler’s own tastes. There have also been news reports over the past few years about employers using these social networking sites to investigate prospective employees.
By posting personal information about your life such as what you got up to with your friends over a weekend, or venting your anger about a previous boss, you may be putting a future employer off, and damaging any future prospects in your career. While most people view these sites as harmless fun, the repercussions for our lives from social networking can reach further than we sometimes imagine.
How private is your private life?
Networking sites have been in the news on many occasions over the past few years, for what is seen as a blasé attitude toward people’s privacy. The majority of information you put on your profile on Facebook is essentially public property. Anyone with the right knowledge can access information about us that we may not want them to know.
Surely, if we don’t want people to know this information, the best tactic is to not post it on a networking site in the first place. These sites do have privacy settings, and it is up to us to alter them to our personal and business preferences. This information can be seen by everyone, or just by your network, at the click of a button.
Was Mark Shurtleff just keeping his electorate informed of his political decisions, or did he go too far?
It’s our choice if we want the world to know what we had for breakfast by way of Twitter, Facebook or any of the many social networking sites.
At a time when online media is being used for business networking, political updates and governmental campaigning, is it time to reconsider your use of Facebook and Twitter?
Please share your views in the comments below.