Twitter, the law and the silent fat lady.

May 24th, 2011 by Rob Brown

It’s all over for privacy and the courts can’t legislate under the weight of social comment.  So scream the headlines in the wake of the latest failure of the injunction process.   It may not however be quite so simple.

The influence of social media on privacy and the law has been evident for some time.  I wrote about it in April shortly before the current media storm blew.   The Trafigura debacle more than 18 months ago highlighted the significant changes brought about by the dynamics of mainstream media access.

One of the central plinths of the current debate is that Twitter, amongst other social networks, is not a publisher and therefore can not be mediated.  That’s true but to to say that Twitter has zero influence on its output is also inaccurate. Look for ‘Giggs’ as a trending topic this morning and it simply wasn’t there.  Twitter presumably throttled the API output using the same technique it used to remove Justin Bieber from the trending lists when most users became bored with his omnipresence.

To say there were too many twitterers to pursue in the Giggs or any other case also ignores the fact that every tweet is time coded so it is a simple job to find the first to breach the court order.  Schillings and Carter Ruck are staffed by some pretty smart people.  The world has changed but it won’t be very long before the courts begin to adapt to the new order.  We have some way to go before the diva warms her vocal chords for the final act.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann Erickson and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

One Response to “Twitter, the law and the silent fat lady.”


  1. Rob Skinner Says:

    Wise words, Rob. I wrote a similarly sceptical post on my blog yesterday.

    High court judges Eady and Tugendhat showed magnificent obstinacy in rejecting calls to lift the injunction yesterday, but there is a principle to the rule of law that some social media enthusiasts would happily disgard. But I bet they’d then vigorously tweet about the ugly consequences!

    As I blogged, it’s a huge shame that the case that prompted the current crisis is such an unworthy cause, compared with the Trafigura scandal. The tabloids were predictably uninterested in that one…

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