Twitter has quickly become one of the most widely used social media networks. Everything is tweeted nowadays. Sometimes, Twitter can further a cause, sometimes it can cause dire consequences, and sometimes, tweets just shouldn’t be written in the first place.
At the end of April, Washington Wizards’ Centre Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay active player in the NBA. As usual, Twitter was flooded with messages, mainly in support. However, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace sent out a highly controversial tweet. Wallace wrote that he was “shaking his head” when he learned that Collins was gay, in his tweet “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH”. He later tweeted “Never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don’t understand!!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended.” as a way to apologize.
A few months ago, an Associated Press tweet reported an explosion at the White House. Within three minutes of the tweet’s release, virtually all U.S. markets took a plunge. CNN and other news agencies scrambled to control the ensuing chaos. It turned out the tweet was faked by a group that hacked into AP’s account.
A tweet showing a Swiffer ad from a local newspaper, with the tweeted text reading “We can do it! Because cleaning kitchens is a woman’s work” was quickly picked up by several online news agencies. Within hours, the story of “Swiffer Using Rosie the Riveter ads to Encourage Women to Clean the Kitchen” went viral. Swiffer quickly pulled the ads, and tweeted a message of their own: “We are aware of the concerns regarding an image in a Swiffer ad. Our core purpose is to make cleaning easier for all consumers, regardless of who is behind the handle of our products. It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and we are working to make changes to where it is used as quickly as possible.” Swiffer used Twitter for damage control.
In litigation, we tend to focus on formally written documents and less-formally written emails. However, in this modern age of hand-held smart phones and always connected internet, there is a multitude of ways that people communicate. When determining sources of potentially relevant information, look beyond the Word documents and email mailboxes – you may find the smoking gun among the tweets.