Journalism.co.uk reported that the UK attorney general Dominic Grieve has “warned” Twitter users not to “break privacy injunctions” using the social network.
According to Journalism.co.uk, Grieve stated tweeters violating court-ordered privacy injunctions “could be prosecuted for contempt of court.”
While the holder of the injunction is expected to “enforce” the court-ordered injunction, Grieve reportedly commented that
“I will take action if I think that my intervention is necessary in the public interest, to maintain the rule of law, proportionate and will achieve an end of upholding the rule of law. It is not something, however, I particularly want to do.”
The move comes nearly a month after tweeters essentially nullified and made a mockery of a court-ordered injunction to keep soccer player Ryan Giggs’ name out of the press in relation to an alleged affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas.
As StinkyJournalism has reported, the UK Sun wanted to report a story linking the married soccer player to Thomas, but an injunction prevented them from naming the man in the affair. Thomas was unable to secure an injunction, reportedly due to the £50,000 cost of one, so she backed the Sun’s call to name the soccer player.
The courts upheld the then-unnamed soccer player’s injunction to keep his name out of the press, but Thomas was named. However, Giggs’ name was circulated online through Twitter and the international press as the court order only applied to the UK. In an act of defiance, a Scottish newspaper, the Herald, published a photo of Giggs identifying him as the holder of the superinjunction. Then, a UK Parliament member, John Hemming, named Giggs in court as the holder of the injunction.
Because of parliamentary privilege, which allows Parliament members to speak freely in Parliament without getting in legal trouble for breaking the injunction, Hemming’s comments were protected. Hemming has been criticized for his naming Giggs through the legal loophole, the Guardian reported.
While Hemming didn’t confirm if Giggs had the alleged affair with Thomas, Hemming’s statement did confirm that Giggs is the person who obtained an injunction to prevent the media from naming him in the alleged affair.
According to Stephens, Grieve would be making a “laudable attempt to control breaches of injunctions,” but it may not be realistic as individual Twitter users “would need to be made aware of the details of injunctions with sufficient particularity to comply.”
However, Stephens noted that “those most at risk would not be the Twitter users, but any journalist who had been served the injunction who was later shown to have leaked hte information prior to it being exposed on Twitter.”
Meanwhile, the UK Telegraph reported June 7 that Ryan Giggs’ attorneys “have issued proceedings against Twitter to force the company to release the personal details of people who named him on the site.”
One significant potential result of this court action, as noted by the Telegraph, is that Giggs’s attorneys may be able to reveal the identities of anonymous tweeters. The ethics of anonymous commenting and outing those commenters on websites have been discussed often the past year. StinkyJournalism is writing to various parties involved in the debate to ask if outing anonymous tweeters is the next phase? We will update with any response.
Thomas has reportedly suggested she may sue the UK Sun for publishing a photo of her that she says was the result of her e-mail account being hacked.
The photo shows her “in a signed Manchester United shirt.” Thomas reportedly tweeted about the photo: “OMG I’m so angry. Furious. That is my copyright. Nobody asked for my consent. Completely Wrong. The morning can’t come quick enough!!!!”
That tweet is not currently in her Twitter stream, but she does have a tweet posted from June 3 claiming her e-mail was “hacked” and the photo was published in the Sun.
UPDATE: 06/08/2011 9:36 AM EST: Added information about Parliamentary privilege.