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THE ETHICS OF DUI: TWEETING DUI LOCATIONS TO BE ILLEGAL?

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Edmonton, Canada- In a piece first reported by Canadian Broadcast News ("CBC"), Edmonton police are requesting that people refrain from tweeting the locations of checkpoints set up to catch drunk drivers. CBC News reported that in several recent instances, Twitter users in Edmonton have alerted their followers as to the specific locations of checkpoints, resulting in a "heated online debate between those who think the information should be shared and those who deem it stupid and unethical." Edmonton police believe that it is a mistake to enable drunk drivers to avoid checkpoints, as doing so may put other motorists in danger. Calgary police have made a similar appeal to Twitter users, stating that "we don't see any value in warning people in advance of how to avoid that detection. We want them caught and we want them off the streets." While the move of the Edmonton police appears to be extreme and it should be pointed out that Canadian law differs from United States law in terms of how DUI checkpoints and roadblocks are communicated to the public, it is not outside the realm of possibility that that banning tweets that warn Pennsylvania and State College drivers of DUI checkpoints could be on the horizon. What are the ethical ramifications of curbing the public's right to free speech in the interest of keeping DUI drivers off the roads of State College? More importantly, would Pennsylvania courts allow the bans while still requiring police to notify the public of the location and areas of DUI checkpoints and roadblocks? Interestingly, the Saskatoon, Canada police have taken the opposite approach. They have stated that they have no problem with checkpoint alert Tweets, and even plan on alerting citizens themselves using Twitter when checkpoints are planned. On Thursday, for example, the Saskatoon police tweeted:

Operation Overdrive checkstops are scheduled for tonight. If you drink, don't drive. Plan ahead, make arrangements, and stick with them.

Saskatoon police say their hope is that people who learn that police checkpoints are in place will think twice about drunk driving. And shouldn't this what the ultimate purpose of DUI checkpoints in State College and around Pennsylvania should be, to deter drunk driving, and not simply to cast a wide and invasive net on otherwise law abiding Pennsylvania drivers? Reference: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/12/14/edmonton-police-stop-tweeting-checkstops.html

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