A rogue Twitter user is making waves in South Africa by posting alerts about speed traps set by police. The user, who posts under the name @PigSpotter, has angered local authorities so much that they have charged the person responsible with “defamation, impairing the dignity of another person and ‘defeating the ends of justice.'” CNN was able to land an interview with the author, who had this to say about his motives:
“I am surprised by the amount of media attention. It was never the reason for starting PigSpotter,” said the man, who has more than 17,000 Twitter followers. “Now that police corruption is in the limelight, maybe we can turn the negative into a positive, by working with the police, rooting out the bad apples/corrupt members, we can restore faith into the police of South Africa.”
The police are not making things any easier on themselves, responding with a quote that’s a classic example of repeating negative allegations in the context of denying them, a crisis management no-no:
Mnisi (spokesman for the Ministry of South African Police) denied the charges of police corruption. “We are not out there to punish people,” he said. “We are not being hard or inhumane.”
One person’s campaign can be another’s crisis, and in this case the person (or people) responsible for the @PigSpotter account is causing serious headaches for police with this quest to expose corruption in South Africa. If anyone actually needed more proof, this case is a perfect example of just how much Twitter can amplify a single voice.
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[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]