Emma Sullivan Sparks Debate on Freedom of Tweet

Photo: Emma Sullivan shows the camera her tweet (ABC NEWS)

Last week, Emma Sullivan had 65 Twitter followers. As of this moment, she has 15,568. And climbing. Fast. So how’s a girl gain instant popularity? Judging from this scenario, a feisty combo of sass, political conviction and thick skin.

Admitting to Fast Company that she’s weathering some harassment in school today, 18-year-old Emma is nonetheless sticking to her convictions and speaking out about the tweet that is sparking a conversations on free speech, social media, youth engagement  … and political egos.

The story goes like this: Emma, a Kansan high school student, went to a Youth in Government event last weekend. Kansas Governor Sam Brownbeck was also in attendance. Emma tweeted some, erm, criticisms of the governor. (#heblowsalot may not exactly be poetry or punditry, but it is free speech in action.)

Brownbeck didn’t like it. His office tattled on her to the school and requested a written apology from Emma. Resistance on Emma’s part and a whole lotta hoopla ultimately resulted in an apology from the Governor instead. Staying true to the scenario’s social media roots, he posted the statement on Facebook.

So that’s the nutshell — but what’s the bottom line? One Forbes writer roots for Emma, indicating her as what he sees as a rare example of political engagement for a young American. (Rare? Methinks not. Let’s prove him wrong come election season, shall we?) The bigger question, I’d argue, is where do we draw the line between free speech, gossip and harassment online?

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Where will you draw the line between free speech and harassment?

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Emma earned her opinion the honest way — through active political engagement. Check out Youth in Government.