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Friday, 21 September 2012

How to tweet and avoid court!

Remember the case of Paul Chambers? He was the tweeter who ended up in court because Robin Hood Airport was closed!

He had to fight his way through two appeals before it was accepted that his comment was no more than a harmless joke.

More recently there has been the more difficult case of the comments made about diving star Tom Daley. The offending tweet was posted by a football player. It was homophobic and offensive but never intended for a wide audience. It ended up being read by thousands. He has been told that he will not face prosecution because it had never been intended to reach the diver, and he had apologised. Apparently Daley himself had stated that he did not think criminal proceedings were necessary.

So it is all very confusing. You might be dragged into court for saying you will blow up an airport but not for sending an offensive, homophobic tweet.

The Director of Prosecutions has now announced that he is to issue guidelines about what might or might not lead to criminal proceedings. Kier Starmer has acknowledged that there are millions of posts each day and that communication is almost instant. There are to be interim guidelines followed by a full consultation process.

This should make things a bit clearer but social networking is so vast it is difficult to see how it can be properly policed.

Of course the easiest answer to the problem is to be very careful what you tweet. If you stop and think that this could be read by half the population – whether you mean it to or not – then that can concentrate the mind.

Think before you tweet is the best guidance there is.

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