Total Twitter court ban not ‘feasible’


An outright ban on using Twitter in court would not be "feasible or reasonable," a lawyer has said.

Stewart Room, partner in Field Fisher Waterhouse's Privacy and Information Law Group, told IT PRO that the issue needs serious consideration but it is vital journalists be able to report on court proceedings.

"Twitter is a tool for journalism as well as for social networking," Room said. "So if tweeting by journalists in court is banned, what is the difference if they step outside the courtroom to post their messages?"

Room also questioned whether restrictions on the use of Twitter should be evidence-based or not.

Proceedings surrounding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's appeal for bail, which has now been granted, were kept fully secret today after Twitter usage was banned inside the courtroom. Journalists had been permitted to tweet from court before Thursday.

The Lord Chief Justice, meanwhile, has called for a debate on tweeting from the courtroom, according to reports.

Whilst journalists should be allowed to tweet from court, albeit within a set of rules, other parties involved in cases may need different rules, Room said.

"Banning the use of Twitter in court by the parties to the proceedings, by witnesses and jury members is much easier to reconcile with public policy," he said.

"Mature thought is required to create workable and justifiable rules for everyone else. But, of course, some evidence will always need to be kept strictly confidential, but journalists know the rules and the courtroom is usually cleared of lay persons when such materials are being discussed."

Twitter was at the centre of another court battle earlier this year, when a user was handed a 1,000 fine and a criminal conviction for threatening to blow up an airport on the micro-blogging service.

Chambers then lost an appeal, much to the vexation of supporters who voiced their dismay on Twitter at the court's decision.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.