Tweeting the legal limit

    Sam Mutimer

    About six months ago, twitter.com reported 50 million registered accounts. Now, with over 200 million, they’re becoming an increasingly vast platform with super human reach! But, the bigger the beast the more unwieldy it can become too. This article on news.com.au recently piqued our interest for this very reason.
    It tells of a British Councillor and alleged defamer behind Twitter alias “Mr Monkey” for not-so-nice comments tweeted about his South Tyneside Council colleagues in northeast England.
    Twitter – in California – were forced to release Mr Monkey’s identity following a British court order. Que?
    How does a British council in a town smaller than Geelong manage to transcend international jurisdictions anyway? Expensively and controversially (see tweet sentiments below), but more importantly, what does this mean for the future of social media use globally?

    Media specialist, Alex Farrar, of Melbourne law firm Shiff & Co believes that the case has legs, “assuming the tweets were defamatory, yes.”
    “Social media users have to be aware that when they post material, it is potentially being published all over the world, including in jurisdictions with different defamation laws,” warns Farrar.
    This whole issue has been cropping up all over the place. Check out Sam’s recent blog post on the AFL players’ tweet blunders, for instance.
    Farrar predicts that there’ll be more US based social media platforms affected, “…with Twitter being an American company, it may well have thought that Mr Monkey’s tweets should be protected speech, but since they could breach the law in England, it had to hand over Mr Monkey’s details.”
    I like to think of social media as some kind of cultural relief-channel, like a pressure valve giving otherwise silent citizens (and consumers) a voice through media.
    On the other hand, this same freedom of speech gives permission for people like this anonymous blogger a platform for voicing unfounded statements about the food served at popular local café Windsor Deli, (Tip Top white bread and Kraft plastic cheese slices, I don’t think so…), which are simply untrue. I know the owner.
    Will these international court rumblings trigger a roaring legal avalanche?
    Would love to hear your thoughts on this…!
    Is this something that you think about when tweeting or blogging? How important is freedom of speech in social media?