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back to article Unlawful tweets could land Twitter in Blighty's dock

Twitter could be liable in the UK for unlawful comments you make in tweets. If that seems unfair or far-fetched, a quick glance southwards at a case in Australia outlines how Twitter could end up on the hook for users' illegal actions. The crucial point for the firm and others like it in the UK is that there is no way to tell …

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Is it just me, or are these claims just a case of making some easy money?

Can't we just tell these people to sod off, grow a backbone, and move on?

Oh no, someone said I wrote something that I didn't, they paid me some money, so now I think Im entitled to even more money from someone else...ffs

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The E-Commerce Regulations

The E-Commerce Regulations

So, what legal protections are there for ISPs? The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (or the E-Commerce Regulations as they are commonly known), introduced a number of provisions setting out the circumstances where Internet intermediaries should not be held accountable for material which is hosted, cached or carried by them.

For instance, Regulation 17 provides that a service provider shall not be liable for unlawful or illegal content, sent or posted by any of its users, so long as the service provider does not initiate the transmission, does not select the receiver of the transmission and does not select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

http://www.out-law.com/page-488

Twitter does not moderate posts/tweets so should be covered... theregister does moderate posts so would not be covered?

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Re: The E-Commerce Regulations

"Twitter does not moderate posts/tweets so should be covered... theregister does moderate posts so would not be covered?"

The Register (these days) moderates post-facto -- most posts go straight up. If el-reg receives a complaint it then has to make a judgement and remove the item if it is illegal. That judgement is the tricky bit - how do the moderators know that the complaint is valid and not just someone trying to bury an inconvenient truth by hoodwinking them. Moderators will probably act on the cautious side to protect The Register from legal action.

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Re: The E-Commerce Regulations

When the moderator ok's a post they "publish" the post, where as unmoderated posts are "published" by the contributer

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Happy

Re: The E-Commerce Regulations

I would say El Reg would be okay under these regulations - They pass the checks of not initiating or selecting the receivers of the transmission, and although they reserve the right to not show posts, I would argue this is not selecting or modifying the information contained in the transmission (not carrying the message at all being different to amending or only carrying part of it, either of which could open them up to being at least part author and therefore responsible for the content.)

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Re: The E-Commerce Regulations

As soon as you act as editor, which includes not publishing selected posts, you are liable.

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Publisher?

I'm inclined to think that Twitter should be seen as a publisher, on the grounds that it is not simply a service for hosting generic material. It is specifically designed to disseminate the users' entries to a wide audience and that is 'publishing' to me.

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Flame

What about wikipedia?

Twitter posts are ephemeral gossip, probably more like slander in the pub than anything else. Wikipedia, which purports to be an encyclopedia, contains a whole load of libellous content, which is then discussed and mulled over by users argued and fought over and left in place for weeks, months, and years. WMF seems to be protected in US law but how liable are all the admins that participate in the talk pages and decide to leave the contested content it place?

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Unhappy

This is all a bit dubious...

If it's possible to sue Twitter (and any other hosting platform potentially) for words posted directly by users, isn't this a bit excessive?

If you take this to a logical extension to print media, it's somewhat like launching a legal sh*t bomb at not only the author/publisher, but also the manufacturer of the paper and the ink manufacturers (maybe even the bookshops?) - after all, they provide the media that the views are expressed upon, much in the same way that Twitter etc. are merely the media on which posters express their views. Ridiculous, I know, but it shows how poorly written, over-complicated laws leave things firmly to the advantage of the lawyers and no-one else.

Of course, all this suits the legal community and their lackeys in Parliament in their ever-growing need to exploit the legal system for their own financial gain, wrapping themselves in the banner of 'protecting victims rights'. I suppose it could be called intellectual ambulance chasing.

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Not just in the UK

Given that the UK considers its libel laws to govern the planet (hence out roaring trade in libel tourism), then the UK could (and probably will) consider Twitter and any other service globally liable.

The only exception would be where the foreign service blocks the UK. If any person the UK viewed foo.bar.to, then that has been "published" in the UK and foo.bar.to is now liable. Despite not having staff, offices or operations in the UK

At least, that's how it seems to work in dead-tree media.

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Re: Not just in the UK

Compared to parts of Europe, those in the UK and the US get off lightly. At least there's some consideration of a right to free speech.

I know of a discussion forum hosted by a tourist office based on one of the Greek islands. It recently had to shut down because although not a review site, if any of its users posted a bad comment about some hotel or restaurant, the site admins would find themselves in the local court before the end of the week. And all this while American sites host some quite shocking reviews of similar places making flat-out accusations of racism and sexual abuse by the staff.

Reality, as the man says, is probably somewhere in between.

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Anonymous Coward

What?

"Meggitt is suing Twitter, claiming that it is liable for any unlawful actions by Hardy on its service"

Right well I'm suing Steadatler for pens and pencils that were used to write nasty things about me while I was still at school! They allowed John Hargreaves to write "George is a gay tosser!" on my geography folder!

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Headmaster

Re: What?

You know, that actually takes me back to my school days and the time someone scrawled my name onto a desk in black marker pen. Because it was just my name and not "Keep R is gay..." or something like that, the teacher made me clean it off - despite my protests of innocence!

How far we have come in 20 years...

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Facepalm

Oh dear

Thinking of all the times I have called certain Politicians complete cnuts on twitter....

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Go

Re: Oh dear

It's crazy that hyperbole could count as libel. It doesn't in the US, for example. However, maybe you can rely on a different defence, i.e. it's true?

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Re: Oh dear

You cannot be (successfully) sued for defamation in the UK for expressing and opinion about somebody. You have to make a claim of fact which is incorrect. So you can call somebody anything insulting you like, but if you claim (for instance), they are corrupt and can't prove it then you are in trouble. There is no defense of making such allegations as an innocent mistake (as their in the US where you have to prove malevolence as well as making an unproven allegation).

There is a proviso to this - whilst you can't be successfuly sued for defamation, recent legislation on various forms of equality legislation can mean that racist, homophobic or similar insults can get you in trouble with the criminal law if they are considered to be liable to generate hate etc.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Surely Twitter is not an editor/publisher

Its more like the owner of a wall that gets covered in graffiti. If someone spray paints "Dave is a wanker" on the side wall of your house, should you be held responsible for the comment?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surely Twitter is not an editor/publisher

Probably, *if* David is not a wanker, and *if* you don't remove the graffiti within a short timeframe after being informed by David's lawyers that the graffiti is libellous and that David would like for it to be removed.

But Twitter is not like a wall. Twitter is specifically designed for the posting of comments and commentary by individuals to be published to the Twitter site and feeds for others to read.

A wall is designed to keep the roof of a house from falling on your head. And other things. But not for publication purposes.

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Re: Surely Twitter is not an editor/publisher

@Wize

Unless you take the word literally, that's what is viewed as "fair comment" and not a libel. People seem to have trouble understanding the difference between an insult and a libel.

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Re: Surely Twitter is not an editor/publisher

Not a wall, but a memo pad with more pages underneath that anyone can tear off when the top page becomes to filled with notes etc.

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Re: Surely Twitter is not an editor/publisher

"A statement that amounts to an insult or is mere vulgar abuse is not defamatory. This is because the words do not convey a defamatory meaning to those who heard them (simple abuse is unlikely to cause real damage to a reputation). It is arguable that the defence of vulgar abuse is not available if the statement is a libel. The reason for this distinction is that it is more likely that written words will be taken seriously and understood to have a defamatory meaning."

http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/right-of-free-expression/defamation/defamation-elements-of-a-claim.html

"According to Mr Justice Eady "comments on online bulletin boards are more like slander than libel". The judge was making his remarks last month in a case where the chairman of a shareholder action group had been accused on a bulletin board of "bully-boy tactics". Eady ordered a stay on a number of libel actions brought by the chairman, and said many comments would have a defence in slander as "mere vulgar abuse."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/sep/08/wallstreetjournal.pressandpublishing

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Anonymous Coward

Tweet on...

He who trades his freedom for security ... etc...

Say what you mean. Consequences be damned. If nearly everyone ignores a law it's very, very hard to enforce.

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Re: Tweet on...

Unless Twitter are shielding the person who posted the libel/slander they should not be held accountable. If they are shielding, all bets are off.

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Anonymous Coward

Extradition...

bout time we were able to use those extradition laws to our advantage...

they wont like that much, but a crimes a crime no matter where its committed.. http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1140589--bodog-com-case-sends-warning-to-all-canadian-websites

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Anonymous Coward

Hold the TWIT accountable

Twitter should not be held responsible for other people's tweets. Hold the TWIT who made the tweet, responsible.

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Isnt this contradicted by another article

The one that compares Blogger comments to Graffiti?

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Big Brother

Twit No More

I've given up on Twitter... it was a nice concept until mainstream became aware of it's existence and the politicians, CEOs and corporations got hold of it.

The fact that I travel for my job and the US is one of the destinations on my travel itinerary means I can't enjoy the luxury of free speech that others (read: aforementioned politicians, CEOs and corporations) seem to have on Twitter. Like this twatter for example: twitter.com/tsabloggerbob

Twitter went from being an underground, subversive micro-blogging phenomenon to a crappy stream of filtered PR bullshit - along with a great place for anyone not rich, politik or corporati to hang themselves publicly. It's not for human beings anymore and it's not worth the risk either.

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WTF?

Shouldn't Twitter people then also be in trouble for threatening to blow Robin Hood up?

Or something?

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Anonymous Coward

Does Twitter have any business or assets in the UK? If not, these lawyers are speaking bull.

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Re: Assets in country where the offence takes place

Given the interconnected nature of so much business these days, my guess is that even without assets in [insert your country here] lawyers from [insert any other country here] can probably make life more difficult for you if they put their minds to it. I mean, freetards once thought The Pirate Bay had safe haven. Turned out, not so much.

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Devil

Politicians *want* this sort of thing

so they they can claim jurisdiction. No-one wants their own country's laws to be broken (libel) only to have the courts look silly because the Big Corporate is overseas. So we must claim jurisdiction, break the internet down and put up firewalls to limit badness done by Foreigners against our fair people.

Only then can "we the people" control this unruly series of tubes.

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Common sense. Obvious. Three words judges and lawyers really need to be able to comprehend.

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