[Ed. Note: This was originally published in September 2012.]
My wife and I went to sleep one night in 2011 and awoke in a Twilight Zone episode. Back in 2007, anti-preservation activists settled for yard signs, rude emails, and disappearing blogs. Today residents in Decatur, Georgia’s Oakhurst neighborhood who oppose historic preservation and who defend destructive gentrification in their neighborhood anonymously use Twitter and other social media sites to settle scores with folks with whom they disagree. They create and post vulgar and defamatory animated videos that offend their more sensible neighbors and demean their entire community.
As of this writing, Twitter has suspended three “fake” accounts (the status of a fourth is undetermined); complaints have been filed against others and remedial action by Twitter may be pending against them. Sure, people — myself included — use Twitter for mischief sometimes. Parody accounts and other legal uses abound. But there is a bright line between innocent, albeit boisterous, posting and harassment and defamation. The people in Decatur behind these accounts have crossed that threshold.