Social media martyrdom: lessons from the Paris Brown debacle

Yesterday Paris Brown, the country's first Youth Crime Commissioner, resigned from her post thanks to the Mail's digging up of ill-advised tweets she posted several years ago. A sad, but perhaps inevitable end to what was the opportunity of a lifetime for the young teenager from Kent.

Joe Jones is a writer and blogger from Nottingham

The Daily Mail can now add the character assassination of a seventeen year old girl to its long list of achievements.

Yesterday Paris Brown, the country’s first Youth Crime Commissioner, resigned from her post thanks to the Mail’s digging up of ill-advised tweets she posted several years ago. A sad, but perhaps inevitable end to what was the opportunity of a lifetime for the young teenager from Kent.

Clearly the Daily Mail’s comments about Paris being a “racist” and a “homophobe” and guilty of “hate speech” have sunk into the consciousness of many of those who haven’t taken the time to properly analyse the offending tweets for themselves – who would have found, at worst, misadvised, immature posts and inappropriate words straight from the mind of a silly, careless teenage girl who could not possibly have known at the time what the future had in store for her.

There is a video on satirical news site The Onion which discusses how, by 2040, every presidential candidate in the United States will be unelectable due to embarrassing Facebook posts from their past.

Though a parody, something similar has happened to Paris – immature and embarrassing tweets from her past – in this case her childhood – have caused her to lose office just days into her appointment.

Crucially, though, lessons need to be learnt from this whole affair to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Kent Police’s procedures should have included the vetting of all the candidates’ social profiles to ensure that any candidate thrust into the limelight cannot be demonised at a later date as Paris has been.

Ann Barnes, the police and crime commissioner for Kent, stated: “We used Kent Police’s vetting procedures, which do not normally involve scrutiny of social networks for this grade of post.”

This needs to change immediately, to avoid giving predatory media outlets easy ammunition with which to destroy the reputation of anyone who enters the public arena.

As it stands, Paris Brown has had her reputation dragged through the dirt because of things she wrote when she was between the ages of 14 and 16. She’s sacrificed the role of a lifetime due to the untenability of her position, and Kent Police has been left embarrassed because the whole affair was allowed to happen in the first place.

Paris herself said: “I hope this may stand as a learning experience for many other young people.”

In today’s society, in which online conduct is just as important as real-life conduct, teenagers all over the country would be wise to listen to her words, because as Britain’s first high-profile social media martyr, she knows all too well what it’s like to have your real-life reputation of today destroyed by your online personality of the past.

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