The government will start to issue legal warnings to users of Facebook and Twitter to try and stop them posting comments that could be in contempt of court.
The advisory notes will be sent from the account of the UK’s attorney general Dominic Grieve, @AGO_UK, as the government attempts to tackle new issues raised by members of the public commenting on legal cases and revealing names of suspects.
Previously these warnings were issued to print and broadcast media outlets but there have been recent high-profile cases where members of the public and celebrities have written messages on these sites that could have been in contempt of court.
Grieve said it was important that the government acted now, given the widespread use and reach of these tools.
“Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post. This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system,” he said.
“In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk. That is no longer the case, and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media.”
Grieve stressed that this was not a form of censorship and instead was designed instead to just inform people about the importance of respecting legal procedures for a fair trial.
“This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact, it’s designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way,” he said.
“I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.”
The attorney general's Twitter account is not new, but it acknowledged the change today and said that while warnings are issued rarely, they have been on the increase this year.
The Attorney General's Office normally issues about five advisories a year on average, although we have issued ten this year— Attorney General (@AGO_UK) December 4, 2013
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