As social media becomes an ever more entrenched force in our lives, it seems unavoidable that old posts will occasionally come back to embarrass our present-day selves. Teenagers speak of having to delete their “baby tweets” that reveal just how young they once were. And who among us hasn’t cringed upon revisiting an old tweet that partakes in a lame hashtag? Social media excavation can yield problems bigger than embarrassment: The president is routinely confronted with old tweets of his that seem to negate his current positions (not that it matters). So in this new landscape, maybe it’s inevitable that when you’re accused of having recruited for a cult, your tweets will be searched for evidence that can be used against you.
Actress Allison Mack was recently arrested for her alleged involvement in NXIVM, a suspected sex cult whose leader has been charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. Mack’s indictment alleges that she recruited women to join the group by selling it as a female mentorship endeavor, and as the cult’s rumored second-in-command, she will face some of the same charges as its leader in May. This week, Insider surfaced some old tweets of Mack’s where she reaches out to celebrities like Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, and singer Kelly Clarkson, asking to “chat” sometime. While it’s possible Mack just wanted to bond over smoothies, her language, especially in her tweets to Watson, sounds a lot like what you would say if you were trying to befriend someone in advance of convincing her to join a cult.
In previous decades, such overtures may have taken place in person, over the phone, or otherwise privately, but thanks to Twitter, they’re there for us to shudder at years later with a completely new context. Is Twitter an effective tool for cult recruitment? It’s unclear (Watson didn’t respond), but these tweets are probably going to be quite effective as courtroom evidence.