Two important rulings on our use of tweets

Tweeting is to be allowed from hearings at the highest court in the land, it has been announced.
Tweeting is to be allowed from hearings at the highest court in the land, it has been announced.
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As my colleague Graeme Patfield remarked in this column recently, tweets – the short text messages published at twitter.com – have rapidly become a day-by-day source of information for journalists as well as another means of reporting news.

And their use in our industry has since been enhanced by rulings by the country’s highest court and by the Press Complaints Commission.

In the latter case, the commission has ruled that journalists who republish Twitter messages in newspaper stories are not breaching the privacy clause of its code of practice.

The adjudication came after a senior civil servant in the Department of Transport complained about two national newspapers

They reported ‘tweets’ by her, which included political thoughts as well as disparaging remarks about a course leader and a post saying she was ‘struggling with a wine-induced hangover.’

She said she had a ‘reasonable expectation’ that her messages would only be published to her 700 followers on the website, but the commission said that the publicly-accessible nature of the information was a ‘key consideration’ as was the fact that the potential audience was actually much larger than the 700 people who followed the complainant directly because it could be re-tweeted by any of them.

The courts too are getting to grips with the journalistic use of tweets.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that journalists covering hearings there could send instant text messages about developments in the courtroom.

The Lord Chief Justice has indicated that journalists should also be allowed to tweet from other courts as he carries out a review into the issue.

It’s thought likely that this deliberation will confirm that reporters should generally be able to post information immediately from the court, although there might be restrictions on tweets sent by members of the public.

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