You’d think a technology reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper would be aware of the perils of airing his private views on very public internet forums.

Apparently not. Sydney Morning Herald geek-in-residence Asher Moses found himself in deep trouble last night after he broadcasted his take on the Matthew Johns “group sex” scandal via social networking site Twitter.

At around 7pm, Moses, having just witnessed Johns’ squirm-inducing 22-minute interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair, posted his considered assessment of ‘Clare’, the then 19-year-old at the centre of the controversy that looks to have ended Johns’ media career.

ashermoses: So Matthew Johns’ career is over because a slutty groupy [sic] had consensual group sex with him and his teammates 7 yrs ago and now regrets it?

The offending tweet was quickly retweeted by several of Moses’ 796 followers, who rather than acquiescing silently, unleashed the online equivalent of the Ten Plagues:

@ashermoses Sooo … you think that apart from doing something morally wrong, you think he … didn’t do anything wrong? Right. Of course.

@ashermoses You’re right! What with a journalist NOW calling her a ‘slutty groupy’, why wouldn’t cops believe an entire NRL rugby team?

@ashermoses How’s this for an opinion — you don’t think its a problem for a group of people to coerce another person into s-x.

@ashermoses is ‘one of those types’. Always a bit sad to lose another one.

But instead of standing by his comment, Moses quickly deleted it, possibly unaware that in the Twittersphere, the digital imprint is permanent.

He then went on the defensive:

ashermoses: I regretted the choice of words but I still think johns is being unfairly treated.

ashermoses: Ok, shouldn’t have put it in those terms. But I think both made their own decisions.

ashermoses: I just think Johns is being crucified when cops haven’t charged him with anything. Morally, I think he was in the wrong.

On the question of rape, Moses expressed his deep seated faith in the Antipodean criminal justice system:

ashermoses: if she was coerced he would have been charged 7 yrs ago … if the cops charged Johns with rape I wouldn’t have this opinion.

After the Twitterstorm died down last night, some other Twitterers raised the question of why Moses should be able to retract his comments, when the same opportunity isn’t available to posters on either the SMH blog to which Moses contributes, or the hard copy of the paper.

To which Moses responded:

ashermoses: Twitter isn’t SMH.

Contrast that with what Moses said himself in this SMH feature written in response to the Fake Stephen Conroy scandal: “Making seemingly private comments on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is now a sackable offence for some professions,” he wrote.

Crikey contacted Moses for comment but he didn’t respond before deadline.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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