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Friday, 10 August 2012

Tweeting without tears

There is no doubting the power and growing influence of Twitter. Over the last two weeks we have seen Olympic Medal Winners and losers tweeting to their fans about how they feel. After Usain Bolt won the 200m gold on Thursday evening his twitter account was getting 80,000 tweets a minute. That is another record that he has broken.

The highlight of the Olympic Opening ceremony for me was following the commentary from @queen_uk . 

The world of business has got the message with many brands seeing the platform as a way of getting their message across to a huge audience in a matter of minutes. It has also given us access to previously hidden worlds including brain surgery –

But we have also seen a downside. I have mentioned some of these before. Earlier this year there was the student who was sent to prison for sending offensive tweets following the illness of Fabrice Muamba. And then there was the bizarre prosecution of Paul Chambers for posting his wish to blow up Robin Hood Airport because it was closed.

Understanding the power of twitter can actually help us to tweet without getting ourselves into trouble. So here are just a few tips.

Firstly be aware that the law of libel applies as much to twitter as any other publication. So if you say something that is not true and is offensive you could find yourself being sued. However much someone annoys you still have to be careful what you tell the world about them.

Secondly you must be sensitive to the risk of criminal action. Poor Mr Chambers is a case in point. He was obviously not threatening to blow up an airport but had to go through two appeals before he cleared his name. And without high profile celebrity support he might not have been able to do that. So avoid anything which might be interpreted as a threat! It is always wise to give yourself an hour or so before you respond to an annoying tweet. Things seem different when you have calmed down a bit.

Do not use Twitter or Facebook for that matter to get back at your boss or work colleagues! You can still be subject to disciplinary action and the evidence is there for all to see. Remember the football sacked for sending homophobic tweets about another player –

In fact just remind yourself that what you are saying can be seen by the whole world. It only takes a few retweets for your comments to be read by thousands. So don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say on live TV or in a crowded pub!


  1. Even in a crowded pub you can always deny everything later.

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