Casey Anthony: The Social Media Trial of the Century

Casey Anthony: The Social Media Trial of the Century

Like many other popular attractions in Orlando, the Casey Anthony trial requires tickets. Hundreds of people show up each day to watch the murder case unfold. But only those who arrive well before 8 a.m. and wait in June swelter can get a pass allowing them into the soaring, chilly top-floor courtroom where Anthony is trying to avoid the death penalty.

Anthony is accused of murdering her 2-year-old, Caylee, in 2008. In December of that year, investigators found parts of the girl’s duct-taped corpse near Anthony’s parents’ home. Bugs and vegetation had colonized the remains, which had been dumped roughly six months earlier. The sheer horror at the act — and the idea that a mother committed it — catapulted the case from local live-at-5 sideshow to tabloid sensation to national preoccupation. The case is being followed by millions on live-stream video feeds and constant cable-news reports. In the past few days, the Washington Post and the Miami Herald have become the latest major outlets to begin offering live streams of the case. CNN and NBC air so much coverage of the trial that the networks each decided to erect a two-story, air-conditioned structure in a lot across from the courthouse. The broadcast village around the court often grows to hundreds of media vehicles.

And yet they are relative latecomers to what is the first major murder trial of the social-media age. The first public mention of the case appeared on MySpace on July 3, 2008, when Cindy Anthony, Casey’s mother, posted a distraught message saying her daughter had stolen “lots of money” and wasn’t allowing her to see her granddaughter.

Today, the latest and most reliable news of the trial comes from a Twitter account, NinthCircuitFL. That’s the feed managed by the 9th Judicial Circuit Court, which has some 400 reporter-blogger followers.