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Do you think Twitter users should have to obey UK superinjunctions?
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:30PM
After Twitter users named the footballer in the recent superinjunction scandal, some have demanded that the social networking site should be held accountable for its users' comments. Do you think Twitter users should be subject to the same laws as traditional media outlets? Have your say in the latest PC Advisor poll.
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:52PM
No I don't! We live in a country where freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. The title tattle about celebrity sex lives are the price these people pay for their celebrity, they are more than happy to court the media when it suits them, and they must therefore expect to take the rough with the smooth.
What is far more important is the use of super injunctions to muzzle the press in far more important stories (Trafigura) I would far rather suffer the headlines about some poseur's indiscretions than feel that the press is being muzzled.
As for Twitter and the other forms of social media reporting, it just shows how out of touch our laws and judiciary are to think that they can stop information from becoming available by this means. the genie is out of the bottle and the law is desperately trying to play catch up, and failing miserably!
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 12:56PM
It is also a way of getting a law in through the back door, I thought our laws had to go through parliament who did look at the privacy law question a while back and rejected it.
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 3:14PM
"Of course, enforcing the law for something like Twitter is an almost impossible task."
And there's the rub, you cannot enforce British law in a jurisdiction that does not recognise a British court order. Twitter is an American company based in the US. Their rights to freedom of speech ensure that Twitter will not be muzzled.
Our judicial system looks increasingly out of touch with the modern world, perhaps people you would prefer our Government to adopt the same action as the Chinese Government and attempt to censor the Internet?
But we all know that's not going to happen don't we! With regard to pornography and terrorism sites hosted overseas they will not be controlled either, the internet abounds with such sites and as soon as one is shut down another springs up.
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 3:49PM
I don't bother Twitter much, but I registered under my cat's name. Lets see them take my cat to court. He'd have their hand off.
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Posted May 25, 2011 at 11:56PM
We live in a country where freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.
Well,maybe. Actually we don't have a right to freedom of speech, we have a right to freedom of expression, which is slightly different thing. We have freedom of expression, provided that we don't use it to break the law. You can't say just anything that comes into your head.
It's true that some of the laws relating to what can and cannot be said and/or published have become increasingly difficult to enforce, but that doesn't necessarily make them bad laws. It just means that they need to be amended and updated to deal with the various methods we use to communicate.
Suggesting that Twitter users are above the law is silly - they are bound by the law as we all are. A libel is a libel,for instance, regardless of the means you use to publish it. What we need to look at is not 'should Twitter users be accountable for what they say about someone in their tweets?' because of course they should. The issue is, how can the legal system hold them accountable if it can't find out who they are?
What we need are mechanisms which enable us to pursue people who flout the law, but before we set up those mechanisms we need to satisfy ourselves that the laws themselves are amended to deal with today's circumstances.
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Posted May 26, 2011 at 9:37AM
If a celebrity is granted a superinjunction how are we expected to know if their name is not published?
This is the thin end of the wedge where the law courts can imprison anyone who does not agree with their views even though the courts have not stated publically what their views are.
If a superinjunction is granted there should be adequate publicity naming the person/company and what it is we cannot say. This of course would negate the purpose of a super injunction and shows just how badly thought out the whole process is.
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Posted May 26, 2011 at 11:40AM
We keep hearing about an 'open' society, yet at the same time it would appear that the people with money or contacts can hide most things, and usually by going through some expensive legal or 'silver-spoon' route. The average person 'on the street' doesn't have this advantage, unless mass support is offered.
Celebrities and other supposed VIPs are often delighted in gaining media attention to attract fame to themselves, yet at the same time (due to their importance!) try to forcible suppress any bad or curiosity news away from themselves. Why should they have special privileges compared to others?.
And as for libel, surely the whole issues of libel should be seriously looked into. Why should it be, that a person being badly injured in say a war zone, is regarded as a far lesser claim than someone who as had a perhaps offensive remark made against them, and then demands £thousands more?.
'Sticks and stones will break my bones, names will never hurt me', comes very readily to mind!.
And that what as already been stated. Twitter is a USA based company, that is complying to US laws. The only way to change that is to possibly censor all incoming internet activities to the UK, and what type of democracy would that then be?.
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Posted May 27, 2011 at 9:34AM
I think there are two issues here, and some confusion between them. 1) As a journalist I don't like 'superinjunctions' and I think they, along with other libel laws in the UK, are in danger of creating a system whereby rich people can bully those with less deep pockets into silence. It's contemptible behaviour. But... 2) if someone publishes a comment that breaches the law of the land, they are liable to be sued, and unless they can prove that they haven't broken the law, they will lose. The fact that Twitter is a US-based site is an interesting diversion, but I'm not sure it's relevant: IDG, the publisher of PC Advisor, is a US company, but every day a web page is read in the UK from any of our sites (in 90 countries)we are liable for its content within the UK, regardless of where the story was written of published.
We may not like the fact that Twitter is subject to the same laws as all other publishing. It feels wrong: in essence Twitter is a conversation, not a broadcast. But anything you write up there is published for the whole world to see. In practice, of course, there is safety in numbers, but that isn't a defence in law.
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Posted May 27, 2011 at 12:05PM
Interesting article Matt,but in your post here you say "but every day a web page is read in the UK from any of our sites (in 90 countries)we are liable for its content within the UK, regardless of where the story was written of published." How do you explain therefore the Sunday Heralds decision to publish Ryan Giggs name?
They are a UK newspaper publishing within UK jurisdiction. how did their lawyers OK this article for publication? You then go on to say "We may not like the fact that Twitter is subject to the same laws as all other publishing." but in your article say "thousands of people are flouting the law by publishing information they are legally barred from spreading, secure in the knowledge that they are virtually untouchable."
If Twitter is bound by the same laws as all other publishing, but people on there can write what they like knowing they are virtually untouchable it brings the law and the judiciary into disrepute. People will hold the law in contempt which makes it a bad law.
As I said in my earlier post, the judges and this law seem to be totally out of step with the modern methods of communicating and disseminating information, they are being left to play catch up and they are very evidently floundering!
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