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How Much Trouble Can One Tweet Cause?

Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters. Pretty hard to get in too much hot water with that kind of word limit, right? Well, Jean Anleu has found otherwise. In May, authorities in Guatemala arrested and charged Anleu after he sent a 96-character tweet urging depositors to withdraw funds from a bank involved in a political-murder scandal. As Associated Press reports (via USA Today), the message earned him the dubious distinction of becoming one of the first people ever to be arrested for a tweet.

Now, however, a Guatemalan appeals court has ruled that there is insufficient evidence to take Anleu to trial on the charges. Unless prosecutors appeal the ruling, it will mean that the charges against Anleu will be dropped. "A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Anleu told AP. "We still have to see what the prosecution does."

The arrest came after Anleu, upset about reports of a political scandal at Guatemala's rural development bank, sent a tweet urging the bank's depositors to pull their money. Translated from Spanish, it said, "First concrete action should be take cash out of Banrural and bankrupt the bank of the corrupt."

Prosecutor Genaro Pacheco decided that Anleu's tweet was a crime because it undermined public trust in the country's banking system. After searching his home and finding evidence that he sent the tweet, police arrested him and put him in jail, where he spent just over a day before being released on bail. Some of the money for his bail and legal fees was raised from the donations of others on Twitter sympathetic to his plight.

Anleu said that the court's lengthy opinion last week had one short sentence that summed it up. "The appeals court orders the judge to rule the case lacks merit." In that, he said, the opinion was "very Twitter-like."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 13, 2009 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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