Twitter proved again it is first with rumors, but not with facts. Twitter rumors caused CNN and FOX News to claim the US Supreme Court had turned down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As the world knows by now, that is the opposite of the real decision about what has been called Obamacare.
Shortly after 10:00am EDT in Washington DC, a ripple spread through the conservative section of the crowd standing on First Street Northeast in front of the Supreme Court building.
"Mandate struck down! Mandate struck down! Mandate struck down!" people shouted, passing the news along like a game of telephone. But while the conservative crowd members said it, the liberal protesters on the left side of the steps began to cheer.
The incorrect rumor was based on a bogus CNN report that was repeated on Twitter and caused mass confusion in front of the court. Possibly the reason for the confusion was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts‘ majority opinion was 59 pages long, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurrence with the majority opinion was 61 pages, the four dissenters opinion was 65 pages, followed by a short two-page comment from Justice Clarence Thomas.
The reading of all the Justices’ opinions took more than an hour. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion started with a rather long explanation of the things that were unconstitutional in the case. He said that the law would not stand under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. That may be what started the game of telephone heading in the wrong direction. Then the opinion changed direction and said it was okay as a part of the taxing powers of Congress. Some of Chief Justice Roberts’ comments are on the LA Times website.
Politico’s website showed the top ten Tweets which were tweeted about the growing frustration regarding the varying accounts coming through their feeds in the minutes after the ruling was issued:
1.) Former Eric Cantor staffer Brad Dayspring: ?STRIKES DOWN? UPHOLDS? STRIKES DOWN? DAMN YOU TWITTER?
2.) NBC’s Luke Russert: ?Lot of conflicting reports, slow down?
3.) David Freddoso, Washington Examiner: ?Okay, now Twitter has contradictory accounts. Just wait.?
4.) Sam Stein, Huffington Post: ?everyone slow down?
5.) Slate’s Farhad Manjoo: ?No one knows anything.?
6.) Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: ?BREAKING: Twitter creates mass confusion. Again.?
7.) National Review’s Kathryn Lopez: ?chill twitter, chill. sometimes it helps to read before writing.?
8.) Five Thirty Eight blogger Nate Silver: ?Not Twitter’s finest moment here. #scotus?
9.) Michelle Malkin: ?So?.which is it on SCOTUS #obamacare?. Seeing conflicting info in my timeline, both in ALL CAPS!?
10.) New York Times’ David Leonhardt: ?Be very careful about these one-line instant summaries.?
Over forty years ago I had a Sociology Professor at University of the Pacific who said she would wait a week for Time, Newsweek, and Forbes to arrive with articles about important issues. Her reasoning was it took time to understand all the parts of major social phenomena. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) will have a lasting impact on American society.
Next time you read a Tweet, think about how it reinforces or detracts from your strongly held ideas. Then ask yourself, how important will those Tweets be 24 hours from now.