Twitter and Facebook are changing the way the world receives and shares information.
It wasn’t so long ago that all we had were newspapers and TV/Radio news. Now we can get almost immediate, on the spot tweets straight to our phones. In many ways this is making the news far more democratic.
But it also carries legal risks for all of us. We may publish something and be blissfully unaware that we are breaking the law.
This is what happened in the recent rape trial of footballer Ched Evans who was convicted earlier this year. Nine defendants have been fined for revealing the name of the victim on both Twitter and Facebook. They have also been ordered to pay her compensation –
Their Defence was that they did not know it was against the law. Unfortunately that does not amount to a legal defence. If you publish unlawful material then you pay the consequences. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
This is where the development of social media causes problems. We are all becoming reporters. But not everyone is trained. Not everyone has access to media lawyers who can proof read what we write and warn us of any problems that might arise. As we know 140 characters can cause much pain!
So what do we do? We are hardly going to have access to lawyers to vet everything we say! So the only advice is ‘don’t do it’. If there is any potential for causing offence, or upset or other negative reaction then ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’ There is plenty going on in the world to keep us occupied without causing unnecessary heartache to ourselves and others.
Think first tweet later!!