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The Snarky Tweet That Derailed Yesterday's SOPA Hearing

Yesterday during the marathon US House Judiciary Committee hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (which is an insanely bad idea), there came a point where the entire hearings ground to a halt...
... because of a tweet!

I had just tuned back in to the hearing and it took me a bit to figure out the kerfuffle (via Twitter, naturally), but Iowa Congressman Steve King was bored listening to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and tweeted that sentiment:

Twitter steveking

As Declan McCullagh recounts over on CNET once Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee learned of the tweet she termed it "offensive" in the open conversation of the hearing... and the hearing then went into the type of parliamentary rathole that can occur in such places as the U.S. Congress.

While people can debate whether this was this was offensive and disrespectful of Rep. King or whether it is all being overblown, the more interesting aspect to me was the intersection between Twitter and hearings such as this one.

Any of us who are used to speaking publicly in 2011 are very well aware that there is inevitably a "Twitter backchannel" going on, for better or worse.

And the SOPA hearings were no different... the #SOPA hashtag had way too much traffic yesterday for any sane person to handle... and representatives who were in the hearings were participating in that stream, too. Rep. Zoe Lofgren had a couple of tweets go out during the hearings - and Rep. Darrell Issa had a constant stream going, although in his case he has made it clear that his staff is tweeting during the actual hearing.

In this case of Rep. King, though, it was a more snarky message about another committee member... made on a public stage. Which, of course, got back to people within the room.

I'm sure this won't be the last time... we're in this brave new world where comments and opinions people might have kept private in the past are now made in public forums. Interesting times ahead, for sure...

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