Friday, February 12, 2010

Can you get in trouble for Twittering inappropriate comments?

We know that there have been cases of people being sacked for their Facebook status updates, Twitter seems even more immediate and often is used very unwisely by some. Politicians can tweet from the floor of parliaments, commenting on everything from the rationale behind policy to the tie worn by the speaker (tweets sent during the election of the UK Speaker of the House of Commons evidenced some of this); but are there every repercussions? It may be easy to think you know who is reading your tweets, you have an imagined audience rather than recognising that the world could be listening. Here is a story that Joto Fritz shared with the Democracy Online Forum:

There was a case in the Parliament of Lower Saxony, Germany in December 2009. Helge Limburg, a member for the Greens, used his Twitter account during the debate on the 2010 budget and posted that the speech of the Interior Minister reminded him of HC Strache and Gerd Wilders, two right-wing politicians in Austria and the Netherlands and called him an "unbearable agitator". This was made public during the debate by a member of the FDP (Liberal Party) who read the entry out loud. This led to a heated debate and an excuse [apology of sorts, DL] by Limburg "for the choice of words, not the content". The debate then ended peacefully. So no charging or conviction but heated debate due to statements made on Twitter.

At a forum on the use of social media in Westminster early last year, that well-respected communication expert Derek Draper did comment on the immediacy of Twitter and that he could read comments about himself speaking at events while he was speaking and then use them to steer his speech. You could also use them to attack the opposition also, if they are tweeting. One does wonder when the first case will be brought that questions whether a tweet constitutes libel - surely it must - or slander. Given that it will be one of the election battlegrounds it may be interesting to see if anyone will wish to shout foul when tweeted about or if it will all be just part of the rough and tumble of election campaigning.

No comments: