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Cousin of M.C. Hammer, and presence on Hammer's reality show Hammertime, Marvin Grant has been accused of raping a woman he met via Twitter. Getting to the bottom of Mr. Grant's case will need investigation and, should he be charged, trial. Discussion of this as the first "Twitter rape case," however, has been immediate.
As we've explored in relation to many "Craigslist crimes" and "Facebook divorces," social media tools have been tied to an ever increasing array of crimes and lawsuits. We've seen alleged murderers finding their victims via Craigslist, and law enforcement portraying Craigslist as an enabler of prostitution, just to name the most discussed examples.
Now enters Twitter, into the case of Marvin Grant, known as "Lyin' Marv" on M.C. Hammer's Hammertime. As the AP reports, a San Francisco Bay Area woman has accused Grant of raping her in a Livermore hotel room.
It's been dubbed a "Twitter rape" because the two allegedly met on the micro-blogging site. It's a Twitter crime much like the murders ascribed to Phillip Markhoff in Boston are "Craigslist murders." In these cases, the accused met the victim, and perhaps arranged a meeting with them, through one of the many new ways people meet and network online.
As Mashable aptly points out in discussion of the Grant case, as they grow, social networking sites encompass a wider array of human behavior -- good and bad. From this point of view, Craigslist and Twitter don't grow the amount of crime, they simply offer a new forum for old behaviors to inhabit.
There is one area, an area vital to the actual people involved in these cases, where "Twitter rape cases," "Craigslist murders," and "Facebook divorces" might distinguish themselves from their offline ancestors. That area is evidence. Beyond serving as the way in which perp meets victim, social media tools can serve as treasure troves of evidence in these and all variety of cases.
How much might it change an acrimonious divorce case to have an allegedly misbehaving spouse constantly broadcasting "what they are doing" (or at least where they are, etc.)?
And in criminal cases, a social media tool can permanently save a record of who met whom, when, and whether they planned to meet.
In the big picture, these tools might give more opportunity for people to find potential victims -- victims of crimes people have been perpetrating since long before the tweet. On the other hand, maybe they just offer a more open window onto crimes and behavior we couldn't see before. And further, that window is always recording.