The Twitter Takeover

Annie Millar

In the 21st century news reporters rely heavily on technology. Computers and cellphones are the tools required to get information to the public as fast as possible. Without the opportunity to send out information quickly, reporters would be at a disadvantage. But, reporters face issues when waltzing into a federal court house.

Mike Isaac experienced this first hand when he excitedly walked into a courtroom in Dallas, Texas. Stopped by a United States Marshal, Isaac’s continuous twitter feed of Mark Zuckerberg’s time on the stand skidded to a halt. Mr. Zuckerberg was involved in a $2 billion intellectual property lawsuit for the theft of virtual reality technology and Isaac was driven to tweet the details of his testimony as quickly as possible.

Little did Isaac know, “[f]ederal courts have rather strict rules around electronics and recording devices inside courtrooms, the laws of which go back much further than some of the software and services we use to broadcast news today.”

As a result, this issue demonstrates the age old battle; old customs versus budding technology. It is clear that federal courtrooms do not want live streams, videos, or photographs taken by reporters in the courtroom. It is also clear that reporters want full access to trial, as well as the ability to inform the public in real time. As it currently stands, the federal courts are clearly winning.

As an intern in a federal district courthouse this past summer, I saw issues of this nature first hand. The entrances were littered with signs, indicating cell phones were strictly prohibited. Additionally United States Marshals were continuously monitoring the courtrooms to make sure orders were not violated.

Being a budding lawyer, as well as a person who relies heavily on technology, I understand both sides of the argument. The question then becomes, will the courts change their ways, or will the old school pad and paper continue to be essential for reporters in the courtroom.
Mike Isaac, A Trial and a Twitterstorm: On Live-Tweeting From a Federal Courthouse, The New York Times (Jan. 24, 2017),