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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Has the internet broken the legal system?

Although it is true that anything published on the internet is subject to the usual rules relating to libel and contempt of court, the reality of an international medium with difficult to trace perpetrators, combined with the willingness of large numbers of people to thumb their noses at authority by repeating tweets and posts, makes the law almost impossible to enforce.

Twitter quite rightly destroyed the superinjunction taken out by Trafigura to prevent scrutiny of their activities, however its obsession with trivia and in particular, the private lives of celebrities and other individuals is a different kettle of fish. Even so, the law seems as helpless to prevent twitter gossip on the latter as it was unable to stop the former.

Today's Independent sums it up when it says that Twitter has brought the culture of the super-injunction to its knees by drawing nearly 55,000 followers to a list of celebrities alleged to have links with the secretive gagging orders:

The frenzy of activity on the micro-blogging site yesterday makes the super-injunctions as ineffective as the ban placed on publication of the autobiography of the MI5 officer Peter Wright in the mid 1980s. The ban on Spycatcher was lifted in 1988 when the law lords realised that overseas publication of the book made a gagging restriction pointless.

They quote media lawyer, Mark Stephens who predicts that the manner in which information has been shared on Twitter will dissuade further celebrities from taking out similar gagging orders: "It's the beginning of the end. Even a rather thick footballer is going to think twice before handing £100,000 to a greedy lawyer if the greedy lawyer can't guarantee that it will actually stay secret," he said.

Mr Stephens suggests that the author of the tweets is likely to face serious punishment. There is no suggestion that Twitter itself is liable. However, the betting must surely be that those who have taken out the superinjunctions will be shy of exposing themselves to further publicity by pursuing this matter and that the courts will do nothing.

The perpetrators may well be taking the risk of imprisionment but look like they will walk away untouched by the law. The internet really could have broken the legal system.
Today is pedantic day, but its actually quite important as distinctions go.

"The Internet" is the infrastructure, routers, servers, etc.

I think you are talking about "Internet Users" in connection to possible breaking of super-injunctions. Getting the two confused can lead to quite inappropriate thinking and legislation.

As an A.M. I trust your focus is on making the former faster and more reliable for users, business and personal in Wales, rather than issues which at this time are only considered in Westminister.

Fancy engaging with the B.C.S. all-wales group on better Broadband service in Wales ?
Clive, you are absolutely right on all counts. It is my inner tabloid editor emerging. Very interested in the BCS all-wales group. Can you e-mail me details? Thanks
Twitter- something to avoid , even having ones photos on net is irksome for me ,
twittr- tell the world what you are doing, who wants to do that?
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