Today we are inactivating the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook. We established the page in late April as a companion to the GZlegalcase.com website and @gzlegalcase Twitter account. On April 28, we published an article called “Why Social Media for George Zimmerman,” where we established seven goals for our digital media presence. While Facebook helped meet most of these goals during the first three months of its activation, it has been providing diminishing returns since and has increasingly become a concern to us.
How Facebook Helped Achieve Our Goals
Regarding our goals of Disputing Misinformation, Providing a Voice for Mr. Zimmerman, and Raising Funds, Facebook served to amplify the messages we posted on the GZlegalcase.com website. For three of our other goals, however, Facebook served a more crucial role:
1. Discrediting and Eliminating Fraudulent Websites and Social Profiles
In April and May there were a number of false George Zimmerman profiles on Facebook, and there were a number of unofficial support pages. By establishing an “official” page on Facebook we were able to discredit the false profiles and establish that unofficial support pages were not associated with the defense. Now, months later, false George Zimmerman profiles are rare, and remaining unofficial Zimmerman support pages are understood not to be endorsed by us. Consequently, we no longer require our page on Facebook to meet this goal.
2. Providing a Forum for Communication With the Law Firm
In the first weeks after we took on the defense of Mr. Zimmerman, our offices were deluged with phone calls, emails, and correspondence. Our presence on Facebook provided an appropriate and accessible way for people to ask questions and express opinions in a place where they were heard, while not being disruptive to our practice. Today, the demand to communicate with our firm regarding this case has subsided and is now more manageable, and we no longer require our page on Facebook to serve this purpose.
3. Acknowledging the Larger Significance of the Case
While we have been focused on Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense, we acknowledge that the public interest in this matter revolves around racial tensions, gun rights, media’s treatment of people involved in this case, and various other considerations. We felt it was appropriate to focus our attention only on facts and issues specifically relevant to the case, and we spoke rarely regarding the larger issues surrounding the case. However, during this time, conversations about these issues appeared in the threads associated with our posts on Facebook, and when appropriate, we allowed them to stand as an acknowledgment to the larger issues at play. However, moving forward, we will address these issues in more appropriate forums, and we no longer need the page on Facebook to fill this role.
How Facebook Has Not Helped
One of our published goals is Discouraging Speculation, and Facebook, by its nature, does not help us with this goal. Every post made on Facebook becomes an open thread where anyone on the site can comment, and comments inevitably lead to conversations about evidence and speculation about guilt or innocence. This type of conversation is a natural part of discourse, and there are plenty of places on the Internet where it is appropriate for this to happen, but it need not happen on a page hosted by the defense.
This illustrates our biggest challenge with the page on Facebook: we cannot post without allowing comments. With comments active, each thread becomes a discussion forum. While we are not responsible for the comments people leave on our page, because we have the ability to delete comments, what we choose not to delete reflects on the defense team. Since we can ban users from posting on the page, who we choose not to ban reflects on the defense team. Admittedly, it does not always reflect well, and that is a concern for the defense. Because our page on Facebook has already accomplished many of our goals, allowing this concern to exist is not prudent.
A Word About Zimmerman Supporters on Facebook
Periodically we have asked the supporters on the page on Facebook why they support George Zimmerman. They tell us George has their support because they believe he was the victim of a coordinated public relations attack. Many believe George was treated unfairly by the news media. Many also believe George acted properly in self-defense. They empathize with George because of the position he finds himself in, and they fear it could happen to them.
It has been suggested that George Zimmerman supporters are racially motivated. For the vast majority of George Zimmerman supporters, this is not true; however, we have banned a very small number of users for making any comment that seemed negative toward race. The irony is that if these people truly understood Mr. Zimmerman’s diverse ethnicity, George Zimmerman himself could be a target of their negativity. Certainly we acknowledge that this case has led to an uncovering of, and at times a polarizing of, race-based feelings in our community and throughout our nation. We will not let the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook be a part of any such agenda, and we do not want the handful of those so inclined to reflect negatively on the overwhelming majority of individuals who support Mr. Zimmerman for legitimate reasons.
It should be noted that many of the people who have shown legitimate support for Mr. Zimmerman on the page on Facebook have received threats and have been harassed online, yet they have continued to voice their support. Those supporters have our sincere thanks.
A link to this article will be our last post on Facebook for the foreseeable future. We will leave the post up until the end of the day, at which time the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook will be unpublished. We are reserving the ability to reactivate it in the future should it be appropriate or necessary.
We will continue to include the Facebook “Like” button on each article we publish on the GZlegalcase.com website which allows the content to circulate widely through individual’s news feeds on Facebook.
In the near future, we will be making upgrades to the GZlegalcase.com website to make it easier for people interested in the case to ask questions and to share information with the legal team.