In the UK, Twitter has come under increasing scrutiny as some users have been outing the identity of celebrities they claim have taken out so-called ‘super-injunctions’ to prevent details of their indiscretions from being reported in the media.
Due to the current anonymity of Twitter users, the immediate and fluid nature of online publishing, and the fact that regulating the Web is extremely difficult without applying censure, it provides the perfect channel for those looking to get round domestic libel and privacy laws.
While a tweet can render you liable under certain libel laws, the attention that Twitter is getting as a result of the super-injunction furore means that much stricter regulation is being discussed. This won’t just affect Twitter, but will inevitably mean that all social networks will need to be much more accountable. For the PR industry, this won’t have a massive effect – any agency worth its salt should be ensuring as a matter of course that its tweets won’t be getting its clients into trouble.
The most interesting aspect about all of this is that by including social media within the realms of privacy and libel legislation governing conventional media, we would be acknowledging that these mediums should indeed be accountable, both to protect the public and the people being talked about.
Quite how this would be implemented and enforced is unclear. But for the majority of social media users currently, this latest incident won’t affect how sites such as Twitter are used, but some people will certainly need to think twice before they tweet.