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The Law & Twitter


interzone55

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Last week Paul Chambers was finally let off by a judge that saw sense, and agreed that it was a joke

Last night a 17 year old lad was arrested after putting a message on Tom Daley's twitter feed suggesting he'd let his dad down.

Is it really a job for the boys & girls in blue to track down and arrest someone for what is little more than verbal abuse on a high-tech platform?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19059127

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Forum Editor

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"It looks to me as though Twitter is more concerned about its own reputation than anything else."

That's an interesting comment. I would hazard a guess that pretty well every serious business is very concerned about its reputation, for on it is based - to a large extent - its future commercial success. For that reason I have no argument with Twitter if indeed it acted out of concern for its reputation.

To the exclusion of everything else? That's the bit that deserves examination - for what would be 'everything else', would it be respect for the law, or concern about its users' right to privacy, or just plain old common-sense?

This case is different, and the comment "So, a few months ago you had to spend a fortune to try and get information from Twitter and now it is handing it over without a thought." isn't valid. The 'fortune' was spent by a local authority which wanted the release of confidential information. The information about "this disturbed young man" was handed over to the Police because they have legal authority to demand it.

It's impossible to make a fully informed judgement about the rights and wrongs of a situation about which we know only what has been reported. The fact that the victim in this instance was a high-profile athlete undoubtedly had a bearing on what happened, but that's to be expected - famous people are far more likely to be the targets of internet abuse. One might say 'well in that case they should accept it as something that goes with the territory' but I don't subscribe to that view. Being famous doesn't mean you can't be distressed by personal abuse.

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Strawballs

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FE I agree with what you are saying my point is they should step in much sooner with all cases not just the high profile cases that have a lot more support and are less likely to react badly

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Forum Editor

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fourm member

"It seems that Twitter is anticipating a law that doesn't, yet, exist."

That Bill relates to internet defamation, and that's not what we're discussing here. We're talking about the publication of abusive or distressing messages about or to an individual in a public access website.

That is - or can be - an offence under the UK Communications Act 2003, and the police have powers to require the owners of a social network site or web forum to disclose information about a person who posts such material, if that person resides in, or posted from a UK location, regardless of where the destination server is located.

The law has been used on numerous occasions to bring prosecutions.

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JYPX

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I think it may be some time before we can say that comedian Al Murray is correct when he declares that people can say anything they want on twitter. Going back to the airport/joke case, I saw that the defence solicitor David Allen was claiming a "gotcha" moment when he caught Edwina Curry saying on twitter that she would "shoot tax exiles" Link here

I don't think what Curry said is in any way comparable with the Airport "joke" unless she made that statement during a period when the Home Secretary was changing the threat of being killed by tax exile protesters, from: "An attack is a strong possibility" to: "An attack is highly likely".

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Aitchbee

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Some twits have thinner skins than other twits. That's my theory...The Twitter Theory of Relativity.(Thinner Version).

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JYPX

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fourm member - The scare quote for the second use of the word joke in my post (the first use was a reference to the case) does not indicate that I am unaware of the appeal court ruling.

For example - At some point I may talk about government "investments" in Wind Power even though I am in no doubt that the money has actually changed hands.

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JYPX

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fourm member - I don't own a newspaper and as such feel free to speculate about the ability of individuals to tweet anything they like, in the future.

If the ruling was setting a boundary then it seems to me that the tweet was already pushing at that boundary. In January 2010 the threat from terrorism was at level: Substantial (an attack is a strong possibility). In the same month the Home Secretary changed the threat level to Severe (an attack is highly likely) So - perhaps Jan 2010 was a great time to make a joke about lets say.....overpaid footballers or some other group. Perhaps you might say that you could cheerfully strangle them? But with airports feeling nervous, it was probably not the greatest time to joke about an act of terrorism against an airport. And that is why it will be interesting to see if the appeal court ruling means that future tweets in the circumstances I am describing will be simply ignored.

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