11 May 2011

Legislating on Twitter is the Equivilant of Recording People talking in Pubs

The dilemma over Twitter, famous people and privacy is becoming a tangled mess.

Cameron is quoted yesterday as saying it is down to Parliament to make law on privacy, not judges.

Uh, I'm sorry sir, but judges form a third of British executive and unless you wish to stamp out centuries of stare decisis (the term defining the precedent rule layed down in the court) then you will be rocking the very foundations of British Law.

Privacy is, as Radio 4 put it, like an icecube. Once it has melted, it is gone.

Right to free speech is an integral part of the unwritten constitution, and Twitter embodies this approach, just on a slightly more accessible scale.

The previous Labour government tried to legislate on internet identity with the furiously debated Digital Economy Bill. This, passed a few days before the general election, in theory allows the government to trace file sharers by ISP address. However, almost immediately rerouting servers were established across the country and the sanctions have been largely evaded.

If this Government attempts to knobble Twitter users through ISP address location, when it is not in fact causing any significant harm, we will spring up like bine weed in another location.

Internet communication is largely asexual. Cut a bit off and it will grow another plant in that location.

And of superinjunctions? Well, if you don't want someone to know, don't do it. In the age of social networking modernity, we are all curbing our social excesses to avoid issues with work, partners, children and parents. Celebrities will have to live by the same rules.

In all honesty, Mr (redacted)'s affair with a bb star would cause less of a media sensation than Kate Moss snorting coke, and she didn't take out an injunction, so why did he need to?

Superinjunctions are currently creating a right for the rich and should be challenged on a social divide issue, as I said previously. All men should be equal in the eyes of the law and the press should be free to say what they wish (within libel law).

Most of the superinjunctions were discussed in bars around fleet street in the last six months anyway. Putting this on Twitter is no different. Will the government next try to record everything people say in bars to protect another randy footballer? Because legislating on Twitter is as ludicrous and outrageous.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device


  1. The issue of whether Twitter is or is not public broadcasting is directly down to use and IRL occupation of the user.

    As for the latter: politicians, journalists, public figures of any kind should be careful about lighting a match of controversy in a room highly oxygenated with public attention.

    As for the intended use of a twitter account, it should be impossible to deny that anyone who has attracted enough "viewers" to rival the ratings of top television channels simply loses the right to not take responsibility for their choice of vernacular, as a broadcaster would have to.

    A twitter account accessing thousands of "viewers" should accept the responsibilities of a publication. If they do not want that responsibility they are perfectly welcome to drop the account and start again more responsibly with better privacy options allowing them to say anything they like.

    I also think anyone who tweets privately to a deliberately limited audience has the right to say literally anything, as would a stand up comedian behind the closed doors of a club - the audience has a choice to give bad reviews that can damage a reputation, but there are no legal ramifications.

  2. If the tweeter is guilty of villification, then he/she can be charged under libel legislation.

    To charge him/her with breaching of a superinjunction would suppose that the superinjunction is more powerful than the freedom of speech.

    Twitter embodies Freedom of Speech and should not be considered any more a publication than a conversation in the pub.

    One has to reconcile social media and social experience as different things from publication.

    Prosecutions of people who make jokes is also wrong in this context.

    Why should freedom of speech trump superinjunctions? Because superinjunctions are the toys of the rich and do not protect privacy per se, are not available as a legal measure to men as equals and should be overruled.

    I am not arguing it is in the public interest to publish which tv star had an affair, but it is in the public interest to protect people from those who are rich enough to persecute them, which is what I believe is being done if the Twitter account holder is charged.


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