Originally published: February 9, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:33am
[Commentary] During the November trial of former Mayor Sheila Dixon, journalists and others watching the proceedings sent a constant stream of short updates to Twitter and other social media platforms about every twist and turn of the case.
Those updates bounced instantly around the web from one circle of acquaintances to another as ordinary citizens added comments and debated one of the most important events in recent Baltimore civic life. When the jury finally delivered its verdict, the stream of tweets and re-tweets multiplied into the thousands within minutes. Everyone was interested, and everyone had something to say. You might call that civic engagement.
But the Baltimore Circuit Court called it unacceptable. The day after Ms. Dixon agreed to a plea that included her resignation from office, Marcella A. Holland, the administrative judge for Baltimore City, issued an order banning "the use of any device to transmit information on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or any other current or future form of social networking from any of the courthouses within the Circuit Court for Baltimore City."
The order is predicated on the assumption that posting to Twitter is effectively the same as having television cameras broadcast court proceedings, which is already banned throughout the state. That analogy is false, and it exposes a misunderstanding of social networking and of the reasons why the courts have been justified in placing limited restrictions on the media in the first place.
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