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Social media reacts to George Zimmerman’s acquittal

RICHMOND–In the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, thousands of people are taking to social media to voice their opinions.

There’s been a flood of reaction on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter since Zimmerman’s acquittal Saturday night.

Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder for the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African- American teenager who was shot and killed after the two had a violent encounter in a Florida neighborhood last year.

At its peak, more than 48,000 tweets were posted every minute on Twitter.

While the arguments come from both sides, VCU social media professor Marcus Messner says a majority of comments have been generated by people upset over the verdict.

“They were on the losing side of the verdict so it’s natural that the outrage is a little stronger than the support for confirming the verdict,” Messner says.

Aside from firing off opinions, several people have also used social media sites as a platform to discuss and compare Zimmerman’s trial to other high profile cases.

“I saw this picture that said Michael Vick goes to jail for killing dogs and Zimmerman doesn’t get jail time for killing a human. There’s pictures all over Twitter,” exclaims student Ashley Robinson.

Other comparisons have been made to Casey Anthony and  Marissa Alexander.  Alexander is an African-American Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in 2012 for shooting, what she describes as warning shots, into a wall during a confrontation with an alleged abusive husband.

Some people say social media has contributed to fabrications and misconceptions about the case, while others say it’s helped create dialogue instead of violent protests.

“I feel when you express your feelings, you don’t have that anger built up inside,” says one student.

But others fear social media has helped fuel racial tensions in the country.

“A lot of people aren’t taking the time to think about it and really look into it before they speak,” says student Callie Terrell-Crockett.

Messner says while social media and the court of public opinion have played an integral role in the case,  he says it’s unclear whether the momentum will continue to have an influence.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether civil rights charges will be brought against Zimmerman.

“I’d be surprised if social media drives that decision,” Messner says.  “I think social media has a very limited time frame.”

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