Aside from allowing users to inform an army of followers of their dietary movements and day to day movements, Twitter can occasionally be put to genuinely brilliant uses. When you’ve got over 150 million potential chums, there’s little you can’t do if your cause is a worthy one – like tracking down stolen Olympic medals. Question is, is Twitter’s power verging on the Orwellian?

Yesterday, you may well have seen somebody retweet a message with a CCTV picture of a chap in a shirt an tie. 17,000 people retweeted the pic, which came from Olympic rower Alex Partridge, within 12 hours. That was partnered by the tweet:

“To the chap who took my @London2012 Olympic Blazer & Medal last night The police have u on CCTV Please return it to 6 Lower Mall Hammersmith.”

See, it seems that one too many beers were poured down Partridge’s throat in celebration of winning bronze at this year’s games, and someone took it upon themselves to lift not only his medal, but that of hockey player Hannah Macleod from a London nightclub.

The power of Twitter revealed

Luckily, this was a cause that Twitter really got behind and, with more efficiency than any episode of Crimewatch has ever achieved, it managed to track the tea leaf down.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they have someone in custody over the incident, and that has to be linked to the overwhelming success of the Twitter hunt.

When social networking starts leaning into the world of citizen-powered crime solving, have we hit a 1984-style era where you’re never safe? Combining the ever-presence of CCTV with such a huge network of willing sleuths has worked out well in this situation, but it does make you wonder quite what Twitter’s capable of doing in other areas of society with the right level of support. All it takes is one case of mistaken identity to potentially ruin someone’s life.

Well, you know what they say: with great power comes great responsibility.

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