Twitter tells users they could face court Microblogging website will hand over user details

31 May 2011

Twitter tells users they could face court

Twitter to hand over user information to the authorities where ‘legally required’ to do so

Microblogging website Twitter has warned users they may face court if they breach super-injunctions or post libellous messages on the site.

Speaking to the BBC last week, Tony Wang, Twitter’s European head said the site would hand over user information to the authorities where they were ‘legally required’ to do so.

The warning was issued two days after MP John Hemming used parliamentary privileges to out Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs as the person who had taken out a super-injunction to prevent details of an alleged affair being aired in the press.

Parliamentary privileges guarantees the rights of MPs and peers to enjoy freedom of speech, and to receive immunity from litigation, for the words spoken in the House of Commons.

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It is widely assumed that John Hemming did so to prevent thousands of Twitter users from facing legal action after they posted Giggs’ name.

It came less than week before three councillors and a senior official at South Tyneside Council successfully applied to the Superior Court of California to force Twitter to reveal the identity of the user who had been allegedly posting slanderous comments about the council on the site. It was reported on Sunday that Twitter had handed over the details.

Responding to a question from BBC News at the e-G8 forum in Paris, Mr Wang said: ‘Platforms have a responsibility, not to defend that user but to protect that user's right to defend him or herself’.

He explained that in general, when dealing with cases of illegal activity, Twitter would comply with local laws to turn over user details. The site would, notify the individual concerned of any such request.

Mr Wang said if the matter came to court, individuals would have to defend themselves as Twitter would: ‘let them exercise their own legal rights under their own jurisdiction, whether that is a motion to quash the order or to oppose it or do a number of other things to defend themselves’.

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