The Power, Speed and Celebrity of Social Media

Casey Anthony found not guilty of murder in Florida court but her social media trial won’t soon end.

Immediately following the not guilty verdict on several counts of murder in relation to the death of Caylee Anthony handed down by the Florida jury to the toddler’s mother Casey Anthony, the social media realm exploded in what could best be described as shock and awe.

After the public became familiar with the Anthony family and the plight of the lost little girl who as it turned out was never lost at all, it appeared Casey Anthony could not get a fair trial. From television coverage to publications running images of the big brown-eyed little girl weekly and in some cases daily, the country had come to the conclusion that her mother was definitely a liar and at the very least unfit to care for a child. What mother doesn’t report a child missing for some 31 days? That’s why the verdict seemed a mistake to many and a horrible display of injustice to others. Still others commented on sites such as Twitter and Facebook that this case was a good example of the U.S. justice system working: the prosecution simply didn’t offer enough evidence. But despite differing opinions on the guilt of Casey Anthony, the news spread faster than it did when O.J. Simpson was also infamously found not guilty of murder.

The comparisons between the two cases began almost instantly and drove analysis on news stations such as CNN soon after the verdict was read. Some legal analysts argue there are few similarities between the two cases, other than the not guilty verdicts. Even (celebrity?) Kim Kardashian had to answer for her tweet of outrage over the verdict, considering her father was on the legal team that defended the now-presumed-to-be-a-murderer Simpson (currently serving jail time for an unrelated crime).

Reading the comments here &its nuts people think just bc I was close to the OJ trial I can’t have my own opinion on the Casey Anthony case?less than a minute ago via UberSocial for BlackBerry Favorite Retweet Reply

But one glaring difference for this person who lived through both trials is the speed at which information became public and complete outrage spread. It seemed fast back when Simpson was found not guilty. (I vividly remember the ludicrous news coverage of the “police chase” of O.J.’s White Ford Bronco.) I know many people were sure to tune it to radio stations or television broadcasts from wherever they may have been, but I think I waited until after work to learn about the verdict then.

But yesterday I didn’t have a choice; I simply saw a pop-up from Twitter saying, “Not Guilty!” and followed the growing online discussion. As I later turned to broadcast news for more information, they simply pointed to posts on Twitter and Facebook. So as quickly as word seemed to spread when a large part of the nation was outraged over the Simpson verdict, it didn’t compare to the wildfire that spread across social media sites and news outlets over the Casey Anthony verdict. The news spread and outrage ensued, causing media outlets to scramble with experts to comment on the trending comments on social networking sites.

It did make me wonder if the news agencies were covering the facts of the case or simply responding to the public outcry of emotion. I have my opinion of the case, but like some pundits suggested, there is a slant in even the most objective media reporting and no one but the jurors know all the details that drove them to the not guilty conclusion. Yet according to social media sites, the jury simply took the easy out and went with reasonable doubt because the constant scrutiny of this case would simply be too much to bear. But it remains unclear if Casey Anthony will suffer or prosper in this era of social media. For instance, there are several articles discussing the news that Casey Anthony has already been offered jobs in the pornography industry. And with people like Amy Fisher (who in her teens shot her lover’s wife in the face, served jail time and is now in the adult entertainment industry herself) now on VH1′s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew 5″, perhaps Casey Anthony will profit from her infamy as well.

What do you think? Does social networking help or hinder the legal system? Is access to incomplete information useful or misleading? Does social media contribute to making alleged criminals into potential celebrities? Please leave a comment here or share your thoughts with me directly via e-mail at Denise.Dubie@ca.com.

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Denise Dubie

About Denise Dubie

Denise Dubie (@DDubie) is Principal of Strategic Content in CA Technologies Thought Leadership Group. She is charged with creating content relevant to today’s most pressing technology and business trends for industry leaders and IT professionals. Prior to joining the company in 2010, Dubie spent 12 years of her career at Network World, an IDG company, covering the IT management industry and all of its players (including CA Technologies and its competitors) as well as high-tech careers, technology trends and vendors such as Cisco, HP, IBM and Microsoft. As Senior Editor at Network World, Dubie also authored the publication's twice-weekly Network and Systems Management Alert newsletter and contributed to the Web site's Microsoft Subnet blog. Before IDG, she served as Assistant Managing Editor at Application Development Trends, managing writers and the monthly publication's production process. Dubie started her professional journalism career as a Staff Writer/Reporter at The Transcript, a small daily paper in Western Massachusetts.
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