Home » privacy » On Deveny, Devine and Twitter … in public!

On Deveny, Devine and Twitter … in public!

twitter_h8r By now everyone in Australia knows who Catherine Deveny is thanks to some particularly tasteless and provocative tweets during the Logies ceremony which proved the straw that broke the camels back; she was ‘dropped as a columnist for The Age after a storm of controversy’ with Editor-In-Chief, Paul Ramadge declaring that ‘the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age’. Deveny defended her tweets claiming that Twitter is about “passing notes in class, but suddenly these notes are being projected into the sky and taken out of context” but this defense seems naive at best so it was hardly a surprise they The Age’s technology editor Gordon Farrer wrote a piece explaining just how public (and useful) Twitter is.

In a New Matilda piece, Jason Wilson points out that there is a lot more to the story and while many people won’t miss Deveny’s columns, the way in which she was dismissed has left a bad taste in many mouths:

Although her MO consists of antagonising people, there was something that reeked of mob justice in the way she was dismissed. Social media can be about sharing, conversation, and positive forms of activism — but they can also be a venue for a kind of outrage porn. This can be quickly satiated without effecting any lasting change, and any one of us might stir it up with an ill-advised tweet or two. There but for the Grace of God, etc.

Last week I had a chance to share some of my views on RTRFM as well, which you can listen to online here.


In this maelstrom, conservative columnist Miranda Devine wrote a rambling column which started like a sympathy-piece for Deveny, but ended with a wrap on the knuckles:

In a chaotic world of aggregators, of Google and Twitter and specialist web feeds, a newspaper is a "credible one-stop shop" of local news where all the hard choices have been made for the reader. Which is why not trashing the brand is more important than ever. Sorry, Catherine.

Devine’s position was unsurprising, but she clearly didn’t understand her own point when just a few days later she responded to criticism on Twitter by telling her critic that “you’ve had enough of rogering gerbils I see”. Devine may have realised she’d crossed a line, and deleted her tweet, only to be reminded that there is no delete button on the internet as screenshots of the exchange were rapidly circulated, but there appear to have been no reprimands for Devine (although she has spring cleaned and deleted a few more tweets, I think).

Last night on the ABC’s Q&A the panel touched on Deveny’s case and concluded, in a very round-about way, we need to remember that (unless you’ve got a private account) tweets are always public; in the first instance you might be talking with a smaller group, but once something is public, your readership is uncertain but is potentially very wide indeed. Jonathan Holmes probably made this point most clearly last week, noting of Deveny:

She also claimed she was taken out of context. I’m not the first to remark that Twitter has no context. Each tweet must stand alone, 140 characters max. Hard to convey irony, or amusement, or hate. Hard to convey that when you say you hope Bindi gets laid, you’re using satire "to expose celebrity raunch culture and the sexual objectification of women". Twitter is a treacherous medium. So fast, so simple, so easy to get wrong.

Thanks the ABC, Deveny has now provided the context she had in mind, and despite something of an explanation, and sort of a bit of an apology, she stands by what she wrote which, ultimately, will probably increase her stock as a comedian celebrity provocateur. For everyone else, we do need to remember that most social media is public (or can easily be copied and become public), whilst still making the most of the many uses of social media platforms like Twitter, and not just following Helen Razer and becoming a Twitter Quitter. Twitter is a powerful tool, but you should, of course, think before you tweet.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Heh!

    I don’t know if it’s just me though Tama, but it’s becoming so easy to offend people now in this I’m-going-to-sue-you trigger happy world. Everything has to be politically correct, above board and matter of fact. I think it was unfortunate for Deveny to be fired (however, I do think she should have removed connections of her role at The Age newspaper from Twitter).. but perhaps that’s because I found some of her rants and open thoughts quite funny. She says the things that people think of but don’t dare to say. Wil Andersons tweets while at the Logies were of similar standard, but that’s okay because he’s a professional comedian? It questions who has the authority to use social media and how it serves a different purpose for different people.

    Sadly Devine didn’t lose her job. Damn.

Comments are closed.