SO you think that you are in control of your company Facebook page? Your company Twitter account? You know who posts what and when and have got a pretty good handle on why you do it and what building your brand will do for your business.
Why then was I dragged to Edinburgh to appear as a witness in a Facebook trial?
Not because of Spencers’ Facebook page, or because of the actions of my colleagues at the firm I worked at in Edinburgh. It was because I clicked the little “Report Abuse” button.
Back in August 2011 when a portion of England’s youth decided they had a right to loot and destroy and embarrass their families, when livelihoods were destroyed, historic premises were burned to the ground, and parents hid their faces in shame, someone somewhere decided that he would poke fun at it.
I have no need to repeat his unacceptable language or his disgusting racism.
Anyone would have been offended by what he had to say on his company Facebook page, which was linked with ours for business reasons. So I reported it.
Unbeknown to probably all of us, the FBI and the CID work closely in cases of extreme abuse, violence incitement and racism to bring to trial anyone who deems these faceless, keyboard tapping crimes acceptable.
When I first heard that I had to travel to Edinburgh from Sheffield to appear as a witness, I felt awkward and upset that I could have created a problem for this person, that they could end up with a criminal record for their opinions, thoughts and message. But I have my own strong opinions on various things and I don’t feel the need to attempt to recruit others to my cause.
You may argue that there are those who are super-sensitive, or easily offended. I am neither. I am not upset by people wanting to swear, curse, argue or believe in their own religious or political slants. Freedom of speech is often quoted as a right, but in a civilised society it does not give carte-blanche for people to say whatever they want whenever they want with zero consideration.
My day in the Edinburgh Court started with me as the criminal - having to empty my pockets, stand with the families of the accused, get scanned through a metal detector, have my bag searched, hand over my phone charger, have my body frisked.
I was then pointed in the direction of the Prosecution Witness Room.
I stood out like a sore thumb. I had dressed very smartly with clean shoes, a skirt, and a smart blouse.
You may think I’m some sort of snob, but didn’t you know that freedom of speech is my right?
A lady was sitting next to me, who was a witness against her fiancé. She asked for help as she couldn’t read and isn’t a Christian and she didn’t want to pledge an oath to tell the truth when she didn’t think she would.
A steady stream of an accused’s family kept marching through, threatening a witness in an assault case. He was frail with a walking stick bearing scars from his beating. I smiled and nodded and attempted a look that showed my alliance but that didn’t invite further conversation.
The man that cost the taxpayer for my trains, hotel, food, time, and adrenaline, changed his plea to guilty when he heard that I had shown up as a witness against him.
It meant that I never actually got to look into the eyes of this faceless internet troll to see if he is actually just like me - someone with strong opinions and a strong sense of who I am and what I believe in.
Unfortunately for him, I don’t believe in his racist, violent views. As he changed his plea to guilty, maybe he didn’t either. Saying what you like for a reaction may not always be your right. Actually, Big Brother might be watching.
Nicola Spencer, director, Spencers Estate Agents