Social Media’s Influence on the Casey Anthony Trial

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Social media’s ‘offline jury’ makes “innocent until proven guilty” difficult in the Casey Anthony Case

Frequently compared to the highly-publicized O.J. Simpson trial, many are saying the Casey Anthony trial is to social media what the O.J. Simpson trial was to cable television. While many Americans have been glued to HLN, CNN and other news channels these past two months, watching the events that will ultimately lead to the fate of a young mother accused of killing her two year old daughter, many have also been connected to this case via social media channels. Unlike the O.J. Simpson trial coverage, the media is not the sole outlet for exposure in the case of ‘Florida vs. Casey Anthony’. Through social media, people now have the opportunity to participate in court cases in a way never before thought possible.

Emerging technology has provided a global audience with a coveted front row ticket to the trial named “Social Media Trial of the Century” by Time Magazine. From the first frantic message posted by Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony, on MySpace in July of 2008, to social media affecting the selection of the jury, MySpace posts and search engine usage being used as evidence in the trial, and finally to the live twitter stream , social media has played a significant role in the controversial trial.

Casey Anthony Updates on FacebookSam Diaz, a Silicon Valley-based social-media expert and consultant, points to social media as the fuel to recent world news —”Social media has allowed everyone an instant megaphone on the Internet, to express, argue and form opinions instantly,” Diaz said. “In the old days, we used to watch a newscast or read a news story. Now we get things so quickly that we are immediately reacting and feeling passionate.”

Mainstream journalists are tweeting from inside the courtroom where Anthony is being tried so people can get notified about court proceedings as they occur. Nearly 40 seats are reserved for local and national media, and bloggers who cover the trial on a daily basis. These credentialed media are allowed to use smartphones, iPads and other devices to disseminate information in real time.

Those following the trial can watch live-streaming video and then discuss ( or even argue) with others in the Orlando Sentinel’s online-chat room (which has attracted up to 124,680 people per day). In 140 characters, those on twitter can hashtag #CaseyAnthony to view and participate in a never-ending conversation. These hashtags connect the conversation about the topic and makes it searchable. Twitter accounts such as @NinthCircuitFL, which is managed by the 9th Judicial Circuit Court, are adding hundreds of followers each day due to their up to the minute trial coverage. With the click of a mouse, those following the trial can also use Facebook to instantly publish their thoughts about the trial to their online friends. The Facebook Page “Casey Anthony Updates” has over a whopping 109,635’ likes’. As if that wasn’t enough, there are iPhone apps that stream the live feed straight from your phones. These apps have rapidly become best sellers in the paid news category in the App Store. Even an online press release regarding the Casey Anthony trial and attorney Jose Baez is now a top story on both Google News and Yahoo News.

Continue reading in Part Two here.