back to article Don't get sued or cuffed on Twitter: Read these top 10 pitfalls

Debates in Parliament, home visits from the police and distressed celebrities have all left tweeters a little unsure as to what is and what is not acceptable by law on Twitter. The list of those offending and those offended keeps growing with recent high profile reports referring to Louise Mensch, Tom Daley, Guy Adams, Steve …

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  1. Wibble
    Windows

    Tweet in haste...

    Repent at leisure

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Or tweet

      and be damned.

  2. Def Silver badge
    Happy

    Surely you'll be safe if you just end every tweet with 'Allegedly'.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Given that someone was sued under defamation laws having started with "In My Opinion" (haven't time to look up link, but was linked to in a fairly recent Reg article) I suspect using "Allegedly" wouldn't help much. Using the word 'Alleged' suggests you heard it from somewhere, so they'd probably sue you and then demand to know where you heard it (which would be your defense, but would also open the source - if any - to a potential lawsuit).

      Far better to stick to satire or strictly factual for anything that might be seen by the world at large. I hear and see a lot of things that are funny in the real-world, but if written down (taking the signs of intent away) could get people into trouble.

      Taking Paul Chambers as an example, had he been saying it face-to-face, the person on the other end would probably have seen a cheeky smile and thought "what a joker". Put it into text and the intent is less obvious. There may be other reasons they persued Mr Chambers but you get the idea.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        In short, as a member of the public you better pass through the plausible deniability ritual formerly used by court jesters lest they be shifted to an oubliette.

        "DID I HEAR CRITICISM"

        "Certainly not, oh state-connected one! I was just explaining a dream..."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        "Far better to stick to satire or strictly factual for anything that might be seen by the world at large"

        Or, better yet, just don't use Twatter at all!!

        1. Furbian
          Thumb Up

          Don't use ...

          Right on Sir, right on!

          I opened an account when it came out, visit it twice a year, have left four tweets.

          I just don't get it. Though I must confess to a near daily facebook visit, with even a post every now and again.

          Oh another even more damning confession, I write Rails applications, and give Twitter as a popular and

          successful example of one at times. Naughty me.

      3. JS001

        "Taking Paul Chambers as an example, had he been saying it face-to-face, the person on the other end would probably have seen a cheeky smile and thought "what a joker". Put it into text and the intent is less obvious. There may be other reasons they persued Mr Chambers but you get the idea."

        From the appeal judgement ([2012] EWHC 2157):

        "There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s “tweet”, or indeed anyone else who may have seen the “tweet” posted on the appellant’s time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming."

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          There may be other reasons they persued Mr Chambers but you get the idea.

          There was a reason I wrote that - I was using it as an example and didn't want to delve into yet another debate if the rights and wrongs. I'm well aware of the judgement, but it was a useful example as to how the removal of all body language can change the perceived message. The rights and wrongs of the case are another matter entirely!

    2. Ian Yates

      Or, you know, don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone's face in public (i.e., with witnesses).

      And it's also worth remembering that sarcasm/irony/etc. are difficult to express through text - especially when u dnt spl prply

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      "Our homeopathic water will cure cancer allegedly"

      Will get you into just as much trouble (a stern telling off from the Advertising Standards Authority) as if you missed off the word "allegedly". It is in breach of the Cancer Act and the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations.

  3. bill 36
    Mushroom

    Two Tweets

    Make a Twat

  4. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    may also offend UK criminal law

    I know it's the correct way of saying it, but this still always makes me wonder how a law can be offended!

    Interesting reading though, something that I thought was missing from Number 1 though is a description of some of the things (IANAL) that you can do - as I understand it.

    If you sell fizzy drinks, using #cocacola is a bad idea, you'll probably get done for trademark infringement.

    If you operate in a market not used by cocacola you may be able to use it, but would have to rely on a defence that no-one would be confused between a fizzy drink and gloves (or whatever you are selling).

    If you're not selling anything, you should be safe (assuming you don't fall under a different pitfall) whether you're tweeting #cococola sucks or anything else (#pepsi's better than #cocacola but #Irn-Bru beats them both?).

    IANAL so you might want to check this before relying on my suggestion though! Hate to see anyone sued!

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      You do seem to understand and express the point about trademarks and hashtags better than the article author. examples of what not to do are appropriate. But I suppose the point is where a tag incorporates a trademark or a version thereof such as #cocacolahascocainein (Coca-Cola does not have cocaine in, as far as I know, not since they changed the recipe (like a hundred years ago or something); when they started making it, people thought it was a vitamin, or something. But they didn't put very much in, which seems a bit of a cheat.)

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        A fair point, though that would come under the defamatory heading rather than the trademark per se (though of course the use of the identifying trademark is key to making it defamatory).

        The bit that's semi-scary is that huge organisations have fingers in many pies, so although you may think you are operating in a different market, that may not be the case. Originally I was going to use trainers as an example, but then it occurred to me that it's not impossible that some company (as far as I know there isn't) under the Coca-Cola umbrella does make trainers. If that were the case, you'd probably have to try and argue that the average person wouldn't be confused because they wouldn't know that Coca-Cola make trainers.

        What makes it worse, in some ways, is that if they become aware of your improper use they have to do something about it or face the risk of later attempts failing due to 'abandonment' of the TM. There are areas that you can take a calculated risk on whether someone might bother to sue, but TM law means that if they become aware they'll have little choice but to formally address the issue.

        Still, I can't see the alternative being better. I can't help think Patenty stuff might be less of a mess if companies weren't able to sit back and watch the damages grow before launching a claim.

  5. Schultz

    Reminds me of hockey rules

    It's just like the ice hockey rules as explained by some Canadian: Hockey is a real sport, you are allowed to do anything in hockey. Of course you may get a penalty for roughing, tripping, high sticking, spearing, interference, boarding, charging, clipping, slashing, ... (I slowly spaced out).

    So there is free speech, but you can get penalized for using it. Thanks for having that clarified.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me of hockey rules

      Free speech does not give you the right to harass, defame or threaten somebody else.

      People also have the right to not be harassed, defamed or threatened.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of hockey rules

        True but what's often forgotten is that people do not have a right not to be offended. It seems (especially within the media) that people forget that actually we do have the right to say something that may offend someone, somewhere.

        Of course, there's a big difference between making an offensive joke and deliberately targeting someone you wish to offend.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reminds me of hockey rules

          Thank God for Guido Fawkes site.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Reminds me of hockey rules

            Why? An Irish person who runs a website attacking British politicians from outside British jurisdiction - what is there to thank God for in that? Does he expose what former members of the IRA get up to, or the corruption of Irish politicians?

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Free speech does not give you the right to harass, defame or threaten somebody else.

        Speech isn't free when you're so scared of being prosecuted for harassment, defamation, or threatening behavior that you don't engage in it.

        Both extremes are bad for society. You Brits seem to have chosen one, while we Yanks are stuck with the other.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Very easy rule to follow

    Twitter / Facebook / other "social" site are public places, so if you not willing to say it in a public place, then chances are you shouldn't say it on there.

    A better rule would to not allow sports people (especially overpaid sleb's) access to these sites.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Mere conjecture

    So when you remove all the "top 10" that contain a lawyer's favourite words and phrases (could, may, risk, might, possibly ... ) and then remove all the descriptions where no legal action has ever been brought, is there anything left?

    As any right-thinking person knows, if you really, really feel an unstoppable urge to tweet something, just use a bit of common sense (yes, I realise the conflict between the "if" and the "just") and consider if you'd like someone to tweet that comment about you. Better yet, keep the thought to yourself.

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Huge Error

    0. Registering.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone please explain this sentence?

    "Of course, there is nothing stopping a person from self-incriminating themselves by tweets revealing illegal conduct such as the reports of a doctor on sick leave."

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Can someone please explain this sentence?

      First bits fairly easy;

      Nothing stops you from saying something that could then be used against you. So if you've pulled a sicky at work and then tweet "Having a great day at Alton Towers", there's nothing protecting you from doing so, or indeed from the repercussions. You've said it in a public place so there's not much you can do to prevent an employer from using this as evidence (I suppose you could claim you were delirious ;-) ). This also applies to things that are against the law, so tweeting "I just crapped on a police car" wouldn't be particularly wise.

      The last bit, I think probably refers to some specific case (I don't know for sure) but the way I read it is that some doctor was on sick leave but then posted about the fun he was having. Could be wrong though

      1. Rick Giles
        Linux

        Re: Can someone please explain this sentence?

        No, no, no. Your account was cracked. Prove it wasn't.

        Linux, because no one cracks Linux.

        1. FrankAlphaXII
          Thumb Down

          Re: Can someone please explain this sentence?

          Really? Someone can be just as stupid with Linux and get their machine cracked just as with any other OS. And someone using Twatter is probably stupid enough to do so, theoretically anyway.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there a lawyer in the house?

    Q1. If someone tweeted 140 characters of a copyrighted piece of literature would they fall foul of the law?

    Q2. If someone said Kevin Pietersen is a wanker would that require the tweeter to prove that KP had indulged in solo pleasures or would KP have to prove he hasn't?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Is there a lawyer in the house?

      Q0: Is there a lawyer in the house?

      A0: Possibly. I Are Not One.

      A1: re 140 char copyright infringements: I suppose it could - the ECJ judgement seems to indicate that they care more about the appropriation of people's efforts in selecting and arranging expressions than about absolute volumes. From my non-lawyer and (I believe) commonsense point of view, I can't see how substantial protectable effort can be put into selecting and arranging up to 140 characters.

      A2: re onanistic cricketers: TFA did mention that idle abuse wasn't actionable. He's a big bloke, though, and owns some heavy bats, so you might want to make sure that your Reg account doesn't get hacked...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is there a lawyer in the house?

        I initially thought this but withdrew my post after considering that limericks and haiku can both fit into 140 characters. I would give an example but I think it is copyrighted.

    3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      The "substantial part" is more of a worry

      Given that a tweet is only 140 characters, you're going to hit the "substantial part" criteria of copyright law PDQ..

      1. moiety

        Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

        How many 140-character strings, using dictionary words, are not copyrighted somewhere?

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

          "How many 140-character strings, using dictionary words, are not copyrighted somewhere?"

          Back-of-the-envelope calculation. Assume that there are 39 possible characters (a-z, 0-9, space, comma and full stop). If 10 billion people typed a different (this is obviously ridiculous) 140-character string every second (also ridiculous) it would take approximately 1 778 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 years to make all of them.

          Using dictionary words of course brings the whole thing a lot lower. There are about 5500 four-letter words according to Scrabble, and with a space in between each one, you can only fit 28 of these in a tweet. With the same assumptions, to get through all of these would take approximately 170 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 years. Of course, this is just for four-letter tweets.

          I think you're safe.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

            Your fundamental error is to omit consideration of grammar, syntax and word frequency. Appearances sometimes to the contrary, tweets do not consist of random arrangements of random words. The actual number of realistic "similar" sentences is many times lower than your worst case.

            I can't tell you how much lower, but here are a few considerations: first, many people actually speak in a small range of frequently used phrases rather than individual words. Second, a lot of phrases in constant use are borrowings, conscious or unconscious. And third, those phrases are almost all governed by syntactical rules which reduce the number considerably (taking "I am a plagiarist", you could just about get away with "I a plagiarist am" as an alternative, but "Plagiarist I am a" is contrary to the rules). And fourthly, there is grammar: "I is a plagiarist", "Me is the plagiarist", "Me are a plagiarist" and so on are all blocked by grammatical rules.

            Now take a few hundred million English speakers writing stuff down for the last hundred years or so, and that is an awful lot of variant sentences produced by people with, on the whole, more similarities than differences.

            I think an awful lot of your zeroes are artifacts of an incorrect base assumption.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

              "Your fundamental error is to omit consideration of grammar, syntax and word frequency. "

              Well, sure. I was just answering the question. If he wanted me to answer a different question, he should have asked a different question. :-)

              "I think an awful lot of your zeroes are artifacts of an incorrect base assumption."

              5500^28/10000000000/3600/24/365.25=1.70235973559254851048496876136E87. There were supposed to be 80-90 zeroes. I hope I didn't make too many, but it looks about right.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

                I assume you are extracting the urine. The "incorrect base assumption" was that every word is likely to appear with equal frequency in random order. The assumption that a set is random when in fact the occurrence of elements and their ordering is rule-governed is one of the standard bugbears of statistics.

                1. DavCrav Silver badge

                  Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

                  "The "incorrect base assumption" was that every word is likely to appear with equal frequency in random order."

                  Ah, so not a base assumption then, but a basic assumption. A base assumption would be that I was working in base e, for example, not base 10. Sorry, I read the sentence mathematically, since I was talking about mathematics. It's difficult to switch that part of the brain off.

                  Of course the number is far lower than what I said. But there are plenty of sentences that have never been displayed before. For example:

                  "John Major thinks 12ft otters rape each other nightly on his balcony."

                  This is well under 140 characters, and I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I am right about this being a new sentence. Because of the creativity involved in this sentence, it is actually probably copyrightable. However,

                  "Going down the shops today. Might buy some fish."

                  Is probably a previously spoken phrase, and also is unlikely to be copyrightable. As a complete aside, it is also much more likely to have been a previous tweet.

            2. John McCallum

              Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

              The short version is will 140 carecters breach the copyright of something or other,yes or as close as you can get.

            3. Grikath

              Re: The "substantial part" is more of a worry

              It's true that the actual number of combinations that make actual sense and are according to the mighty rules of grammar and spelling are a lot less than the total number of possibilities of a 140 character string.

              Then again, that number gets upped quite a bit by the rather ballistic approach at spelling and grammar that's introduced by the "phonetic spelling" perpretrated and reinforced by a rather lackluster and inadequate school system in the past decades....

    4. Diogenes
      Headmaster

      Re: Is there a lawyer in the house?

      When doing teaching degree had to put assignments in using turnit-in - I had a 500 word assignment that was about my disabled son's school experience come back as 75% plagarised - thing is I consulted no books or websites, quoted nothing other his individualised learning plan and school reports (which were handwritten & in my files) . So yes it very possible

    5. streaky Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Is there a lawyer in the house?

      "If someone said Kevin Pietersen is a wanker would that require the tweeter to prove that KP had indulged in solo pleasures or would KP have to prove he hasn't?"

      Burden of proof, arguably, would be on him to prove he wasn't in a libel case.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

    deceptive tweets (and other misrepresentations)....

    Man, dump twitter and work for fox news, where it's LEGAL to LIE and DECEIVE..

    What fun is the web anymore with all these rules? You can't even speak your mind anymore without DHS blowing down your stack.

    Of course I am mixing UK law with US law here, but hopefully you get the point, both of our governments suck dick

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: both of our governments suck dick

      If only! At least then they'd be doing something useful!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

      you're saying the governments suck dick? That's defemation I do believe. OFFICERS ARREST HIM!!!

      But I agree, the whole libel thing is retarded. If I tweet. "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" it's libel etc. If I state "Man I hate Jusin Beiber, he seems like such a conceited twat" it'd be different somehow? I assume because it isn't a definitve statement.

      Rather than saying "he is" it's "he appears to be"

      if you say "In my opinion" or "allegedly" followed by "he's a conceited twat" you're still stating it in a definitive manner. You're just adding that your opinion says he's a twat, of that he's allegedly at twat, rather than saying he seems like one. Which is somehow different.

      Honestly this entire post was just an excuse to write "I hate justin beiber, he's a conceited twat" over and over.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

        Government activities: It isn't defamation. In fact, it might be discrimination against the gay community or women to suggest that it was in any way defamatory. It is getting quite hard, in fact, to find sexual acts of which to accuse someone that could be considered discriminatory. Perhaps writing of an MP "so and so is so boring that he only engages in sex with his wife in the missionary position with the lights out, and never in Lent" would now be defamatory.

      2. Richard Gadsden

        Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

        "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" [is] libel

        No it isn't. That would have the defense of honest opinion.

        It would also be adjudged to be "mere abuse" rather than defamatory.

      3. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

        In theory, a court would find that '"Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat"' would never be interpreted (by a reasonable audience) as a statement of fact. If you included reference to seeing his psych records, then it could be interpreted as such but a reasonable person should always see 'Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" as a statement of opinion, just as posting 'Justin Bieber looks like a 12 year old girl' should be.

        If you (as the accused) can show that no reasonable person would construe your statement as one of fact (or, even better, if you could show it was actually true!) then the action would fail. It'd be pretty costly though, AFAIK you can't even apply for legal aid for your defence, which is one of the reasons people piss and moan about our libel laws.

        Of course, you probably know this, but I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and write the same sentence a few times too!

        IANAL but did a fair bit of studying not that long ago, still before posting "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" I'd recommend consulting with a solicitor or at least gathering proof that it is in fact true.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

          But what would you then do if you wanted to state "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" as an established fact? According to you, any audience would interpret "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" as opinion. The first part "Man I hate Justin Beiber" is clearly a statement of dislike, but the person stating is may be in possession of information that "he's such a conceited twat" would be an accurate representation of fact - yet will not be able to establish that in a tweet.

          Did anyone actually keep track of how many times we have managed to cram "Man I hate Justin Beiber, he's such a conceited twat" into posts by now? Just out of interest :).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

            Given that a "twat"* is part of the female anatomy, and given that British judges tend to be very literal, I think you would be unable to persuade one that you intended to state it as an established fact anyway.

            *It is a derivative of the Northern English Thwaite, from the Norse, and it means a cleared space in a forest, i.e. a garden. As swear words go, it really is very inappropriate.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Jtom

      Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

      Fox news is no different, and likely better, than CBS, NBC, ABC, and especially MSNBC. But you're welcome to maintain your ignorance by only watching news that agrees with your distorted viewpoint.

    4. Tom 13
      Joke

      Re: Problem, Reaction, Solution ... Conditioning behavior.

      After slogging through the replies to your post, I've come to the conclusion that the proper Solution to the Problem is to use all the Lawyers for Reactor shielding.

      Joke alert just so even the lawyers know this isn't intended to be defamatory.

  12. Crisp Silver badge
    Coat

    This post complies with all ten rules.

    And as a result is very very boring.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: This post complies with all ten rules.

      Some people might view that as making a fool of the law and/or inciting law-breaking behaviour by implying that only things outside the law are worth doing. I'm sure that a skilled lawyer or f***witted jobsworth at Robin Hood airport can have you done for at least one of them.

      Please remain where you are until the authorities come and arrest you.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Facepalm

        I've been programming for too long...

        Because I first read that as This post compiles with all ten rules.

  13. Senior Ugli
    IT Angle

    could we add anything tweeting about 1direction & justin bieber serves a 10 year prision sentence?

    1. Aldous

      what about people giving PR to things they claim to hate?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Justin Bieber

      Justin, Selena, Scooter. Selena falls, head wedged in railings. Scooter takes her, asks J if he wants to. J tempted, but head 2 big 4 gap.

      140 characters. I'll be here all night.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forgive me for stating the obvious

    But isn't it time that we all make a stand for freedom of speech, rather than seeing it continuously eroded? I personally do not want to live in a society where I am too afraid to say, move, comment, or even think freely without fear (yes, FEAR) of offending someone who can't handle it or exercising my rights of copyright fair use.

    How about we create Internet#1 where everything is locked down, conservative, nice and fluffy, where draconian thought-crime exists, and Internet#2 where people can just get on with being normal without fear of government or corporate harassment.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Forgive me for stating the obvious

      "How about we create Internet#1 where everything is locked down, conservative, nice and fluffy, where draconian thought-crime exists, and Internet#2 where people can just get on with being normal without fear of government or corporate harassment."

      We sort of tried that, back at the start of the public internet. It was called AOL if you remember. If you are too young to remember they operated a walled garden version of the net (which then was usenet, Lists, email and very early web, along with stuff like Fetch). It worked for while but then inmates of the walled garden realised there was lots of fun stuff happening outside and demanded holes in the walls which became so numerous they disappeared.

    2. Richard Gadsden

      Re: Forgive me for stating the obvious

      We already have Internet#2, it's called 4chan

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forgive me for stating the obvious

      The problem you and many others seem to be having is what is considered free speech. I'm all for free speech when it is used against a governement or to uncover corporate abuse but not if it is used as an excuse to insult, bully or offend individuals sometimes to the point of suicide just because you think it's you're right to be able to do so without fear of repercussion.

  15. Bear Features

    So should comedians be locked up?

    You know there are two issues here:

    1. The obvious is freedom of speech. And if you don't think it's an important point, think about the ramifications of no freedom of speech.

    2. Those "high and mighty" "celebrities" growing a pair and ignoring what they don't like. Christ were they not called names at school? Am I not allowed to say that I think Nick Clegg is an idiot?

    Sure there are a bucket loads of idiots on twitter. But it isn't against the law to be an idiot.

    This is all about rich people and their PR companies trying to clamp down on the "image" they are fabricating to portray and nothing else. It isn't about anything else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Am I not allowed to say that I think Nick Clegg is an idiot?"

      as i understand, you ARE allowed to say that. if nothing else, truth is a defence so if you truely think that then how would there be a problem? what your not allowed to say is a factual, but untrue, statement about him - for example 'nick clegg just nicked my car' (without context) would probably be libelous. its not an opinion, its not provably true, therefore its libelous and probably defamation too.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In summary...

    Don't be a dick.

  17. Craig 12

    Very interesting article, merci el reg!

    Also glad I didn't tweet my thoughts on seb coe last night; probably would fall foul of these laws (despite being true). He's a bit of a ****** **** really, if wikipedia is to be believed.

  18. LinkOfHyrule
    Joke

    My advice...

    Become a sex addict - seriously - spend every spare moment you have shagging, tossing, flicking, x-tubing, whatever - just keep your hands busy - best way to avoid your idle thumbs getting you sent to guantanamo bay for threatening to blow up an Olympic swimmer or something stupid!

  19. bpfh Silver badge
    WTF?

    Copied Tweets?

    So retweeting is now copyright infringement?

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Copied Tweets?

      Re-tweeting isn't copyright infringement since the original attribution exists.

      Cutting and pasting the content of a tweet could be considered infringement, depending on the context and content of the original tweet and the re-use of the tweet.

      1. Keep Refrigerated
        Stop

        Re: Copied Tweets?

        Strictly speaking, I don't think original attribution is a valid defense, otherwise I could share sheet music, an mp3 or movie as long as I stated it was owned/created by Sony etc...

        Basically, I don't think retweets have been tested under copyright law (they probably never will be - but I'd never underestimate how low a troll will sink).

        Personally I haven't updated my twitter account for months, since the corporates, celebutards and oppressive regimes started using Twitter as a tool to stomp on people expressing themselves harmlessly.

      2. Mike 137 Bronze badge

        Re: Copied Tweets?

        In UK copyright law at least, the issue isn't attribution - it's permission. So retweeting might indeed constitute copyright infringement the original tweeter had not given permission and were to decide to be a literalist. Courtesy of the media moguls who are powerful enough to buy the law and just want our money any which way, it's technically almost impossible to avoid copyright infringement unless we stay silent and never write anything in public.

        But in practical terms, due to the cost of litigation, it all comes down to money (like just about everything else). Unless it were a recognised catch phrase (e.g. a movie or pop song quote or a commercial strap line) it would be a very wealthy copyright owner to complain about the use of half a dozen words on Twitter. But it's worth reviewing the restrictions imposed recently in relation to a major sporting event in London, see http://www.keystonelaw.co.uk/other/keynotes/2012/june/restrictions-of-olympic-proportions

        Although these particular restrictions rest largely on trade mark law, it's clear that the whole IP system is getting out of hand - becoming a source of revenue rather than it's original purpose of protecting creative works against debasement.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Number eleven

    Don't let you anon Twitter account become insecure.

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      FAIL

      Re: Number eleven

      Doesn't even matter if you keep it secure Sting op exposes politician over Twitter rants

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phew. I was making some rather offkey comments about Pete Townsend on twitter last night during the closing ceremony and was worried I might get fingered. Reading through this checklist however I think my trolling was safe.

  22. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Boffin

    The bottom line... why tweet?

    Sorry, I just have to wonder why most people tweet and if those that they follow on twitter are really worth the time in reading their tweets.

    I just saw a statistic that Lady Gaga had somewhere more than 23 million followers on twitter. Compare this to Time Magazine's 3 million subscribers. (Rough numbers)

    What sort of commentary does that say about today's society? That we value or listen more to our 'stars' than we do to respectable news outlets...

    1. chris lively

      Re: The bottom line... why tweet?

      The problem is "respectable news outlets". There aren't many of them.

      Given a choice between following an entertainer and following crap news that's been spun to the point of nonsense, I'll stick with the entertainment. At least I'm not being fed bullshit.

  23. Lamont Cranston

    Fortunately, Twitter isn't used by any 'reasonable person'

    and thus anything should be permitted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fortunately, Twitter isn't used by any 'reasonable person'

      I was thinking about these pitfalls in the context of other social media sites and in particular these very forums and came to a the same conclusion, that we could probably get away with much of what we write as there doesn't seem to be any "reasonable person" on here.

  24. Kevin Fields

    Slow news day?

    In other words, if you can't do it in the real world, don't do it on Twitter, either.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you're a TWIT...

    ...then maybe it's in your best interest to be cuffed and hauled off to get your head examined?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Number three: tweets revealing personal or confidential information"

    The authors aren't seriously suggesting that the Data Protection Act applies to all informattion flows between individuals, are they?? That is stretching things somewhat. It implies, for example, that what I learn from overhearing someone talking in a pub is now information that falls under the influence of the DPA.

    Doesn't seem remotely sensible to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Number three: tweets revealing personal or confidential information"

      But tweets are not between individuals. And yes, if you were to work in the NHS, say, and reveal the embarrassing illness of a patient to a third party in a pub, you would be in breach of the DPA exactly as if Dodgy McExmet of the News of the Screws phoned you up at work and asked for the goods in exchange for the contents of a brown envelope.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ribosome - Re: "Number three: tweets revealing personal or confidential information"

        I agree with your example. If I worked for the NHS and revealed personal data by any means (including through Twitter), then I would expect to fall foul of the DPA.

        My pub example actually referred to my actions in revealing any old information obtained by eavesdropping. I felt that 'Number 3' was in danger of implying that the DPA applied to general breaches of confidence, even those between individual members of the public.

        Otherwise, I thought it was a very good article.

  27. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Joke

    What is the tweeting you speak of?

  28. Hoop-a-joop

    You Brits make great peasants.

  29. Jtom

    "A tweet containing a false statement that induces another person to act on it may offend laws against deceit and the making of misrepresentations. "

    If you've ever seen a US political ad, you know that a great many hacks in both Parties lie and distort the other's positions in order to induce you to vote for their candidate. If we could borrow this rule for just one election cycle we could put all the politicians and their sycophants in jail.

  30. Freshp2
    Mushroom

    Oh boy here we go...... Now you want to put a end to cybor bullying?It's about time. Well you may very well have to shut twitter down. Because once you inact these rules, the only people who would follow these will be academics. Everybody els is heading for the hills with all their fame and glory leaving twitter looking like a a tsunami hit twice. Now the question after that Will be, can Facebook handle the mass exadous form twits ville? There will be opportunity. With folks posting nicely along side thier parents, grandparent, kids, shift managers, friends, pottential bosses, advertising adverts while playing farmville..... Could be a huge payday for zuck, if he could find a way to get folks to play with real money and not with likes. As for twitter and all this change????? That's your bread and butter baby, you got a pitbull, now you want a poodle with pink hair.... good luck.

  31. jake Silver badge

    On the other hand, fuck twitter & the idiots using it.

    Honestly, the mind boggles ... is there really any use for twitter (facebook, myspace, google, etc. ...)?

    I've been providing similar services for me & mine since before Q-Link became AOL ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rise of the Neo-Luddites

      My social network is shitter/older/more text based than yours

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Rise of the Neo-Luddites

        My social network *is* older than yours. The oldest member is a Great Uncle. He's 103 years old. I actually talk to him face to face fairly regularly. Throw in me, my Father & his two brothers, and we have around 415 years total life experience between us. And a hell of a fun poker/blackjack game :-)

        Yes, most folks in my circle use text based communications tools. They work quite nicely, and have been available to us non-stop since Flag Day. Why do you have an issue with this? Serious question.

        But shittier? No. I have to take exception there ... all-singing, all dancing, glittery, advert-ridden bandwidth wasters are definitely shittier than the tools we use. By way of reference, my nieces & nephews[1] have all tried "modern" social networking. None of them use it anymore ... reasons for returning to the "friends and family" network include: (!GooMyFaceYouMSTwit) is "too slow", "ugly", "noisy", "adverts suck!", "I can't make it look like I want it to look", "it goes down too often", "the interface changes too often", "they change my settings too often", "they want me to change my addons too often", "they lose my stuff too often", etc.

        [1] Yes, their friends (and attendant families), are allowed to have accounts on jakenet[2].

        [2] Actual name changed for reasons of practicality.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twitter is for twits

    Abandon all hope for privacy, all ye who post personal information on social media sites.

    1. Studley

      Re: Twitter is for twits

      That works pretty well if you take "privacy," out of that sentence too.

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