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1 December 2010

Tim on should libel law treat tweets differently from other published work?

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

 

.net big question: Should libel law treat tweets differently from other published work? People have informal chats on Twitter. Should things written in these chats be taken as seriously (legally) as if they were published in an article?


Tim's comment:

"It's obvious that content is accessible across the web and related platforms quicker than ever before; this certainly doesn't exclude Twitter. Twitter increasingly solidifies its position in being a resource that creates, distributes and/or recycles information, becoming a more stable tool in the media environment.

Established media outlets become accustomed to using Facebook and Twitter URLs for contact points. As a result, audiences are not only becoming used to more socially driven resources, they are also becoming accustomed to accepting them as de facto trusted resources and possibly the information that travels amongst them. This is a trend that seems to becoming more commonplace especially if the source is trusted. My concern is that within these rapidly moving environments that Tweets and re-Tweets can be damaging if not used with care even if they are posted without malice or in error..net magazine logo

 

Unfortunately, many individuals and organisations reply upon digital hubs to check information and keep abreast of that is happening, but are they validating it? It becomes all too easy to pass on links and information without taking the care to check the source and validating information in a more efficient way, particularly as the trend seems to be feed me now, I don¹t care where it came from attitude takes hold. Given the impact that hearsay, innuendo, incorrect information and even malicious actions can have, it¹s important that individuals are aware of the effects that their communications can have, even if its a re-Tweet.

 

With search deals with Google et al, Twitter real-time feeds are available in search results, seeded into numerous other environments, cached and therefore must be home to many a server. Therefore, healthy trails of information are more likely to live in areas that can be called upon by parties if ever required investigate and dispute issues. With various Twitter posts of celebrities dying and other salacious stories (amongst those that travel best across the Web).

 

It's inevitable that both individuals and organisations (perhaps Twitter itself) may become regular targets for libel action once legal systems catch up. Should Tweets be treated differently (legally) to any other published content? No, and it isn¹t. Twitter should be treated like any other digital platform and not be misused. It¹s likely that we will experience court cases, perhaps some very high profiles actions that may highlight the issue.
Guidelines are here, but maybe to circumvent this, users could be enlightened a little more to what the implications are with regular updates (rather then relying upon them to read a blog or website T&Cs).:


Tim's feedback first appeared in .net print magazine. See Rachel's reply to the question here

Categories: Technology, Social media, News, Elemental

Tags: .net, .net big question, Q&A, Twitter, Tweets, Re-Tweet, libel law, libel

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