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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Keeping Tweeters out of trouble

I have gone on and on about the legal dangers faced by all of us who use Social Media. 

How many stories have we read about those who have tweeted without thinking and landed themselves in hot water?

Most recently there has been the conviction of Emma Way. She hit a cyclist with her wing mirror knocking him into a hedge and causing minor injuries. It was a fairly routine accident which would normally have passed us by. But she then told the world on Twitter;

"Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way - he doesn't even pay road tax! #Bloodycyclists."

She was prosecuted for failing to stop after and accident and for failure to report it. It is no great surprise that she was convicted and fined. But for the tweet the cuclist would probably, not have taken it any further –

This was real case of tweeting without due care and attention –

Even more serious problems have arisen when comments on court cases have endangered the chances of a fair trial. I blogged back in August about the two jurors who were imprisoned for posting comments about ongoing trials –

This has led the Attorney General to publish warnings about the consequences of posts that might prejudice a fair trial. Such guidance is already provided to the mainstream media. Such is the power of social media that the same information will be provided on twitter. He has acknowledged the growing influence of Facebook and Twitter - "Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post," He also explained that the intention was enable posted to comment without getting themselves into trouble - "I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.”

The warnings will appear on Twitter at @AGO_UK. It might be a good idea for all regular tweeters to follow that particular site. What this means is that we all have the capability to comment on local and world events and to reach thousands within a few minutes. This is clearly good for democracy.

But it also means we have a responsibility – to others and to ourselves. It we can only grasp the power we hold in our hands then we will remind ourselves to think before we tweet!!

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