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Twitter And Co Keeping the Law On Its Toes

Posted on Apr 19, 2013 by Andy Harris  | 0 Comments

By Andy Harris

I recently blogged on the way social media encouraged the ‘keyboard warrior’ mentality in some users.  Since then there has been further evidence of people making comments on social media sites that in the cold light of day they might prefer to distance themselves from.   Some of the more vitriolic comments on the passing of Margaret Thatcher would, one would hope, come into this category.  

Additionally there was the unfortunate example of the resignation after only 3 days of Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner due to some questionable Twitter use.  Not for the first time the defence seemed based on a view that people would not take comments seriously as they were ‘only’ on social media.

A related development yesterday was the decision by the court in the McAlpine - Bercow Twitter libel action to split the action – against the wishes of the defendant- which will mean the issue of whether the Tweet sent by Bercow is capable of being defamatory will be heard separately from quantification of damages.

Although both sides to this dispute have indicated a desire for the case to be settled without the need for further litigation, it will be extremely instructive for all social media users if this issue is considered by the court.

Also in the news recently was the claim by Unison that Edinburgh City Council’s social media policy was contrary to human rights legislation – particularly the prohibition on use of social media which might undermine the Council or bring it into disrepute.

These are all examples of how the phenomenon of social media causes new challenges for law makers and law enforcers. It also creates challenges for businesses, and of course the individual users.

Along with other members of the Social Media Team we will be discussing some of these issues on Tuesday 24th April at the next Tech Law for Startups that we're hosting at our office. If you fancy coming along, please just head along to the Tech Law for Startups Meetup site and register. 

Andy

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