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We’ve seen in recent history how social media has been utilized to start an uprising; we’ve seen how it has impacted the lives of those suffering losses at the hands of natural disasters; and we’ve even seen it shred an individual’s credibility apart. We’ve seen how people have used social media to do all of these things on both an international and domestic scale. No other murder trial has generated as much hoopla across the social media universe in the United States as the Casey Anthony trial. The trial itself has become known as ” the social media” trial.
For those of you who are not familiar with the case, Casey Anythony was accused of first degree murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony in June 2008. Additionally, she was accused of aggravated child abuse and providing false information to law enforcement officials. Anthony spent three years in county jail awaiting her trial until it finally began in May 2011. After about two months of prosecution versus defense, the jury finally began deliberations on July 4. On July 5, a verdict was announced. Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murder and aggravated child abuse, two crimes that would have warranted capital punishment. She was, however, found guilty of four counts of providing false information to law enforcement officials – a misdemeanor in the state of Florida. Naturally, those following the case expressed their opinions via the socialsphere.
This trial was, without question, the biggest murder trial to hit the social media age. This became apparent when news outlets began sending out constant tweets to keep Twitter followers in the loop. The case was made readily available to millions via live-stream video feeds and overhwhelming news reports. CNN and NBC aired so much of the trial that both networks built a two-story building across from the courthouse to extend their coverage.
Naturally, since the trial was televised, the social media world exploded with all kinds of emotions when the verdict was announced – most of them being rage, disappointment, sadness, and shock. In essence, everyone following the case on the internet became an “online juror.” And while the defense was sure Anthony was innocent throughout this whole process, many across the web felt very differently.
Here are some tweets regarding the verdict that were under the hashtag #caseyanthonyverdict:
“Bet she’s thinking hahaha, I killed my daughter but proved not guilty, thanks america! drinks on me?”
“Murderers please move to florida, especially pinnelas county…you can get away with it there.”
“Ashamed to be a Pinellas County resident and Floridian.”
“I’m setting Casey Anthony up on a blind date with my friend Dexter Morgan, who is also from Florida.”
There have been some positive tweets, but they are few and far between. So good luck finding them.
This case is also being compared to the infamous 1995 OJ Simpson case in which the former NFL star was accused of murdering his wife, but despite a mountain of forensic evidence, he was found not guilty. Does anyone know the difference between the Anthony case and the Simpson case – which, as we know, received a TON of media coverage? That’s right – social media. Can you imagine if social media were around when the Simpson verdict was announced? It would have overhwlemed every social site out there. People could only scream at the television back then. Now, they can let the entire world know exactly how they feel through social media.
Obviously, the acquittal surprised many people outside of the courtoom. Social media expert, Kip Wotkyins, claimed the infatuation with the trial were the twists and turns that allowed the social media world to erupt.
“It’s kind of the rubbernecking phenomenon. It’s a tragic story, almost Shakespearean tragic story,” said Wotkyins. “I mean you couldn’t make this stuff up.”
Despite all the twists and turns, though, it’s important to remember that we don’t know what goes on in a courtroom throughout an entire day. We see what the television news stations want us to see so it’s important to reserve judgement. However, the American public is not naive, nor are they stupid. They have the capability to form intelligent opinions from what they see and hear. And it would seem that the majority of the public disagrees wholeheartedly with the final decision of the jurors.
Anger and tribute
After the not guilty verdict was announced, Facebook posts came in at at least ten per second – that is amazing. Several Facebook pages were established to express the dissatisfaction with the result. Some pages are advocating a boycott of a possible book/movie deal; others are displaying their assuredness that Anthony was guilty; and many are using profanity to express their displeasure.
Not everything is angry, though. Sadly, the end result of all of this drama is that a little baby girl is dead. And no one knows for sure who the murderer is, and we may never know. But that doesn’t stop people from expressing their concern and appreciation. This page invites everyone to turn on their porch lights in remembrance of Caylee Anthony. It has already generated over 2 million “attendees.”
AllFacebook even lists two related pages in their top ten most explosive pages.
The impact of this trial is not just felt through the Facebook and Twitter community, either. In just one day after the not guilty announcement, almost 100,000 people across the country have already signed a virtual campaign that calls for a law that would make it a felony for parents who don’t alert police of a child’s disappearance.
The long lasting effects of social media
Casey Anthony might think that after some time the rage will die down. If social media weren’t around, that actually might be the case. But rest assured, as long as social media is around, she will never hear the end of the outrage – ever. Just like BP won’t hear the end of their disastrous oil spill that occured last year.
The fact of the matter is people’s appetite for instant information/gratification is ever-increasing. Social media allows us to act, react, post, repost, share, like, and tweet instantaneously. As a result, it can have a significant impact on anything, even courtroom cases.
Finally, let’s give a moment of silence for the little girl who had a full life ahead of her, and whose life was tragically cut short.