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Social Media Under Electronic Gag Order By The Good Wife & President Clinton

The power of a blogger's mobile input, the import of a Facebook status update and the ability of a tweet to report in real-time have been called 'off limits' by a judge and an ex-president this week. As perhaps, a sign of the times, there soon may be barriers as to where and when you can engage in user-generated content. In two separate cases this week, precedents might have been set as to just how social Internet users can be in public places.

When 'The Good Wife's' episode titled "Bad Girls" aired on November 16, it not only gave a nod to the Lindsay Lohan and enabling mother stereotypes, audiences also witnessed one of the first times a TV show displayed a need to control social media in a public forum.

Judge Cuesta on "The Good Wife"Judge Cuesta on "The Good Wife"Judge Cuesta, played brilliantly by David Paymer returns to this show's  courtroom as the cantankerous justice overseeing a celebrity DUI case that eventually turns into a full-blown murder rap. When he learns that both the defendant and the prosecution witnesses have been "live tweeting" the proceedings, he immediately puts everyone under "electronic gag order."

Is there a legal precedent for this type of courtroom restriction in the real world?  When Googling "electronic gag orders," I could not find any search results that would indicate that this is presently being done. Even live tweeting during Barack Obama's State of the Union address this past January wasn't off-bounds. It was criticized in the press, but there is no legislation prohibiting such a practice.

However, an ex-President this week took umbrage with this type of activity and apparently believes in the theory that "loose tweets can sink fleets." In an unprecedented move by any government official to date, President Clinton is disallowing social media access to occur during his keynote speech at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce.com event to be held December 6-8, 2010 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Clinton is demanding there be "no tweeting, live blogging, posting to Facebook or any other use of social media" during this address.

According to a ReadWriteWeb article, this unusual mandate came to the online publishing group via The Outcast Agency, the public relations firm that represents Salesforce.com.

Here is the full text of the message from Outcast:



The Twitterati responded quickly. As one example, Sameer Patel, an enterprise analyst questioned the president's decision, as such:



Alex Williams in his ReadWriteWeb review noted that other public officials are not of the same inclination as Clinton. "Neither General Colin Powell nor Vice President Al Gore prohibited reporting from their keynotes at user conferences we have attended. Powell spoke at Dreamforce last year."

He also noted that "it also seems counter to the message about the power of social technologies that Salesforce.com has been focusing on for the past year." Saleforce launched "Chatter," its microblogging tool, last year at Dreamforce, and the firm has consistently reminded users of its commitment to social media.

However, I would assume the Salesforce team's hands are tied. If this dictum is coming from Bill Clinton, there probably is very little Salesforce could have said to change his position - even, though I'm sure they are paying him a 'boatload' of money to appear. But one has to wonder, what bon mots of wisdom or inside Intel is being released during this speech that he doesn't want the world to know in real-time. This is a tech conference, not a strategy briefing, isn't it?

The irony of these two cases juxtaposed to each other this week is serendipitous. The premise of 'The Good Wife's' fictional storyline parallels Clinton's real life in the White House. Infidelity and sexual liaisons by a man in power is now an old theme - but one that was put squarely under the public's microscope during the President's time in office. Perhaps Mr. Clinton should have placed just as much emphasis on "no cheating" back then as he is with "no tweeting" today. Or perhaps, we should get his "good wife" to weigh in - so we can get her take on this topic?

With the president's upcoming cameo role in the sequel movie "The Hangover 2," I wonder if he will be requiring movie theaters to abide by his "no tweet" policy as well!

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Ron Callari
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