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Twitter and super injunctions: no one need pack their toothbrush

May 10, 2011 3 Comments

Marc Stephens (yes, Julian Assange's lawyer) is quoted as saying that twitter users who circulated information about privacy super injunctions could face prosecution: “They are all in similar jeopardy ... They are clearly in contempt of court".

Superinjunctions on Twitter

Twitter's hardly been bound or gagged by the injunction

Actually, they're probably not.

If you look back at the Alfie Patten injunction, it transires that the court order was never sent to google news, so they weren’t bound by it: “We investigate removal requests based on court order violations once the court order (and the pages they want us to remove that allegedly infringe on the court order) have been brought to our attention,” said a Google spokesman. “To date, we have not received a court order relating to [this] case.” Same seems to be true in this latest case as anyone can find out the details with a bit of Googling.

And in the same case, the wording of the injunction was: “Who is bound: This order binds all persons and all companies (whether acting by their directors, employees or agents or in any other way) who know that the order has been made.”

So people passing the stories round on Twitter sound like they're not bound by the injunction as they've never seen it - a problem with blogs and super injunctions I've pointed out before.

Update: One lawyer quoted here by Judith Townend argues: "The Order will usually contain a penal notice which states very clearly that not only will the Respondents be in breach and potentially guilty of contempt if they reveal any details of the injunction, but so will any third party who is not a respondent in the proceedings but is aware of the injunction and then goes on to leak its details."

But in the same post a legal writer adds: "If you tell me that someone is having an affair and I publish this fact on my personal website or on Twitter, I cannot be in contempt of court if I did not know that a court order existed."

Most of the 000s of people tweeting stuff this stuff must know a super injunction exists - but they will have no understanding of what this means and no way of finding out the specifics. Finding them guilty of contempt of court would be pointless - and isn't going to happen.

With regard to the specific Twitter account that tweeted details of several alleged super injunctions, Stephens says: “The individual behind this is clearly going to be tracked, his electronic fingerprints are all over it and when he gets the knock on the door I would very strongly advise that he takes a toothbrush with him.”

Even this is true only if the culprit is an idiot. With no UK Twitter office to serve court orders on, and assuming the culprit used a hotmail account not in their real name, the sender is untraceable. Unless they're an idiot ...

If anyone should be packing his toothbrush, it's the Telegraph's consumer affairs correspondent. I'll leave you to work out why.

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  1. Super injunctions and Twitter: Alfie Patten, John Terry, [redacted] and [redacted]
  2. Super injunction names: 6 national newspaper stories that flouted the injunction to reveal all
  3. Fred Goodwin’s “affair” super-injunction shredded by internet
  4. Do blogs make reporting restrictions pointless?
  5. John Terry: another nail in the superinjunction coffin?

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