Originally published on Lotus Magma (old site) 27 June 2011
Do you solemnly swear to tweet the truth and nothing but the truth?....
Any of us that have seen the film "The Social Network" will know that the big creators of our favourite social networking sites are also individuals that are most likely (on occasion) to deal with court cases. However, this is now not the case and it appears that any individual Twitter-user in England or Wales could have court proceedings brought against them according to the Attorney General.
In an interview with the BCC, Attorney General Dominic Grieve stated that individuals could be prosecuted for contempt of court for publishing sensitive material. He also said that he would take action himself if he thought it was necessary.
Recent events have shown how costly this can be. Mother of three, Joanne Fraill was sentenced to eight months in prison after admitting at the London High Court that she exchanged messages via Facebook with acquitted defendant Jamie Sewart, during an ongoing drug trial in Manchester last year. While her representative Peter Wright, QC said that she was "distraught and inconsolable" and "terrified" at the prospect of going to jail the judge said in a written ruling when sentencing her that: "Her conduct in visiting the internet repeatedly was directly contrary to her oath as a juror, and her contact with the acquitted defendant, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted flagrant breaches of the orders made by the judge for the proper conduct of the trial."
A full version of the story can be read here.
However, the event which has seen Twitter-users become more aware of how careful they have to become, is the posting of a series of tweets by a certain Twitter account on 8th May 2011, revealing information which looked suspiciously like a list of injunctions imposed by celebrities.
On 20th May 2011, a person referred to in the court documents as 'CTB' is suing Twitter Inc. and a list of Twitter account users who have been referred to on Twitter as "persons unknown responsible for the publication of information". Further information regarding this matter can be found here.
Coincidentally, CTB is the name used in another court case where an athlete received an injunction stopping the press from naming him and reporting his alleged affair with a reality TV star. Reporting of the 'super injunction' is banned and consequently these Twitter users could face a hefty bill if found guilty.
Many people simply use their social networking page to contact friends, keep up-to-date with the lives of celebrities and post updates on their own lives. But for those users who seem to get more of a 'kick' out of publishing about the lives of others it seems that they need to become more familiar with the legal world and the laws which all of us measly journalists must adhere to.
For future use, it looks as though you are going to need to get a law book in order to determine what you can post or tweet on your own page.