Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Telephone Flash Mobs, Celebrities, the Police, and Social Media

Is a telephone flash mob criminal? How do you prove that a series of Tweets directly caused a telephone flash mob? The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is trying to answer these questions after an artist who goes by the stage name, "The Game" allegedly tweeted the phone number of a sheriff's station on August 12th. It is alleged that The Game's tweets were directly responsible for a sheriff's station receiving hundreds of calls that tied up its phone lines for a few hours.

According to Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, The Game may be charged with "making annoying or harassing phone calls via [an] electronic device or the Internet,"delaying or obstructing peace officers in the performance of their duties," and "knowingly and maliciously disrupting or impeding communications over a public safety radio frequency".

The Game alleged in at least one of his Tweets that his account was hacked. If The Game's allegations are true he should file a complaint with the police because hacking is a violation under federal and state law.

Charging The Game for violating the law based on his alleged Tweets is one thing but proving it is another. A prosecutor may have to prove that The Game had the mens rea to jam the Sheriff Department's communications system. This may be extremely difficult unless there is a smoking gun that indicates that The Game intended to disrupt the sheriff department's phone lines.

I highly doubt that The Game will be successfully prosecuted for his alleged ill conceived tweets. However, this episode may encourage California and other states to create guidelines on how to respond to these situations in the future.

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.