1 Jun 2011

Should Twitter remove latest injunction tweets?

As another faceless Twitter user posts alleged details of privacy injunctions involving the rich and famous, a media lawyer and tech expert argue for and against freedoms like this on social media.

Should Twitter remove latest injunction tweets?

The latest tweets claim to reveal extensive details about 14 injunctions allegedly obtained by politicians, musicians and sportsmen.

The feed has already acquired nearly 7,000 followers.

It is the second time in a month that Twitter has been used by an as yet untraced figure to expose high profile figures alleged to have paid for gagging orders to prevent information about their private lives being made public.

The first case led to the furore surrounding the naming of a Premier League footballer alleged to have had an affair. The player in question was later named as Ryan Giggs by an MP under the rules of parliamentary privilege.

These people aren’t just having their private lives attacked, they’re being harassed. Duncan Lamont

This time the “leaker” has gone further by posting links to court documents and media coverage, using the Twitter tool “Twishort” which allows users to publish messages that are longer than the usual 140 character maximum. The 14 messages were posted late on 30 May and in the early hours of 31 May.

In some cases the latest claims involve not just names but addresses and, in one case, the identity of an allegedly child victim. It raises further questions about how far freedom of speech is being tested by social media.

Gurublog: Is it really Twitter winning the injunction war?

Media lawyer Duncan Lamont believes Twitter is now in a very dangerous situation.

He told Channel 4 News: “Twitter’s been skating on thin ice but trying to behave honourably, but it’s now exposed in libel as well as breaching privacy rules.

“Google is a search engine and can’t be accused of doing anything wrong… like British Telecom. You can’t blame the pipe network.

“Twitter began like that but the situation has changed.

“These people aren’t just having their private lives attacked, they’re being harassed. There is going to have to be some sort of fall guy so people realise it isn’t without sanction.”

Twitter says it takes down “illegal tweets and spam” but that it “strive[s] not to remove tweets on the basis of their content”.

But Matt Brian, from technology website The Next Web, thinks Twitter will survive the storm without being forced to change.

He said “Twitter will almost certainly not intervene, the steps that it would take would be sufficient. The company has long said it won’t intervene unless postings are socially unacceptable, it’s difficult to put these tweets in this category.

“Twitter has already said that it cooperates with authorities but it has also noted that it will notify a user should they become involved in legal proceedings.

“Twitter’s stance is fair, it is trying to remain impartial so it can remain transparent to its users but also assist authorities with their enquiries.”

So what do you think is the right balance between freedom to tweet and invading private lives? Tell us via Facebook.com/Channel4News or on Twitter @channel4news.

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