CommCore Blog and News

When Tweet Time Becomes Jail Time

It’s probably a first, getting arrested for NOT tweeting. This also falls into the category of: be careful what you wish for, especially if it’s on a social network.

Last week Def Jam record label executive James Roppo tweeted that 15-year-old Canadian pop singer sensation Justin Bieber would be signing autographs at a Long Island, NY mall clothing store. Screaming teeny-boppers began lining up as early as 7 hours before the event.

As the day grew longer, the crowd — mostly pre-teens and teens — reached an estimated 10,000. A sudden surge forward caused a stampede of youngsters worried they would not get in to see their idol. Police, fearing injuries, asked Roppo to re-tweet that the event was cancelled. He refused. It took tweets by Bieber himself, who was prevented by authorities from entering the Mall, to get word out to social networks for teens stay away from the event. “They are not allowing me to come into the mall,” Bieber tweeted. “The event…is cancelled. I don’t want anyone hurt.”

Only minor injuries were reported. But Roppo was arrested by authorities and faces potential charges of reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance, obstruction of government administration and endangering the welfare of children. Def Jam Records later issued a statement citing the safety concerns of “the police and the Fire Marshal” that “prohibited the event from taking place.”

Could it be, however, that the cause for the cancellation was the use of social media in the first place that excited young fans into a frenzy? The instantaneous delivery to thousands of tweeters enamored with the teen heartthrob, and their subsequent real-time re-tweeting of news of the Bieber appearance, might well have been its own firestorm in the making.

Another question — about both the medium and the communication — is what responsibility did Roppo or others have to continue communicating?

One of CommCore Consulting Group’s first rules of communication is to consider all potential implications before you decide how to reach out. On reflection, might not Roppo and Bieber realized that exciting thousands of impressionable young fans at an instant on their mobile devices and computers could proliferate into a potential crisis? We wonder if Roppo was in essence shouting “fire” in what became a crowded theater, one of the exceptions to First Amendment rights. What do you think?