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Twitter Reveals User Details In UK Libel Case 127

Posted by timothy
from the phrase-your-subpoena-in-140-chars-or-less dept.
whoever57 writes "In a case that could have implications for the Ryan Giggs affair, Twitter revealed user details in response to a legal action filed in San Mateo county, CA by lawyers representing South Tyneside council. The alleged libel refers to critical comments made via Twitter. It is possible that one of the people making the critical comments is one of the council members."
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Twitter Reveals User Details In UK Libel Case

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  • also, details (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @05:38AM (#36278484) Journal

    The footballer thing is about being silenced against telling the truth.

    The Tyneside council thing is about being identified for libel proceedings.

    Lots of people in the US have had the latter happen to them. But the former does not and still does not apply in the US. The only "implications" are that in both cases the complainant is from the UK.

    Also, this is one of the most boring distractions from real problems the media has been stirred up into obsessing itself with. Cameron's a smart fucker.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The footballer thing is about being silenced against telling the truth.

      The Tyneside council thing is about being identified for libel proceedings.

      Please explain how, injuntion aside, details of the the footballer thing are not libelous. Remember that truth isn't a defense in libel cases, merely that the details were made public with the intent to defame. If you're not personally involved in the footballer thing, it's none of your business is it?

      • Re:also, details (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DrgnDancer (137700) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @10:14AM (#36279214) Homepage

        I believe truth is a defense in in US libel cases, which is where the case is apparently being tried. According to the Journalism about.com article [about.com]: "Libel is by definition false. Anything that is provably true cannot be libelous. " I'll grant you that "about.com" is not he most reliable source ever, but I doubt they'd get this wrong. I realize that in the UK truth is not a Libel defense (which makes no sense to me at all, but no one asked me), but in California it almost certainly is.

        • I realize that in the UK truth is not a Libel defense

          There's no such thing as UK law, which means you are totally unqualified to comment on the subject.

          Now that doesn't mean you're necessarily wrong. However, it happens that you are. [wikipedia.org]

        • by u38cg (607297)
          The difference between the US and English (not UK) system is small, but important. In England, if you make a libellous statement, you must be able to prove it is true in order to defend a libel case. In the US, the complainant must prove it is not true. Example: I publish a newspaper story stating that politician X enjoys sadomasochistic sex. In England, X can sue me for libel and will win unless I have photographs of him having his buttocks striped (which also raises questions about my interests, but n
      • Remember that truth isn't a defense in libel cases

        Wrong.

        However in the UK the newspaper (etc) must prove the accuracy of its statement. Hence the proverb, "if in doubt, leave it out".

      • by Homburg (213427)

        Truth is an absolute defense in libel cases; whether there was malicious intent is only relevant in cases of qualified privilege (for instance, reporting on proceedings in parliament, or attempting to claim that a defamatory statement was made in the course of reasonable journalistic practice). English libel law requires that the person making a defense prove that what they are saying is true (rather than requiring the person making the complaint to prove that the supposed defamatory statement is false), bu

    • by troll -1 (956834)
      I thought California had banned British libel cases [guardian.co.uk] so I wonder why the a California court is ruling against twitter in a Tyneside libel case?
      • I wonder why the a California court is ruling against twitter in a Tyneside libel case?

        They probably think it's pronounced Tin iss ee day and it's an island in the Caribbean.

      • Iirc the US has now done this at a Federal level with the SPEECH Act [wikimedia.org], however that only protects against libel cases where there would be an obvious 1st amendments defence in the US for the same "libel".

        However, in this case, it isn't Twitter that is being sued for libel. The libel case is going on in the UK (technically E+W) and involves UK parties; Twitter is only being brought in as an innocent third party to hand over subscriber details. Twitter will likely have immunity under the SPEECH Act, so can't

  • by Alex Belits (437) *

    A council spokesman said: “The council has a duty of care to protect its employees and as this blog contains damaging claims about council officers, legal action is being taken to identify those responsible.”

    That's some GREAT use for public money -- feeding lawyers, fueling scandals and elevating shit posted on twitter to something other than rumors.

  • by ThreeGigs (239452) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @05:50AM (#36278512)

    Twitter is in California, and a California court ordered them to reveal information. Twitter is complying with the law.

    Try making it more relevant:
    Brits using American court system to sue Americans.

    Still News at 11 for me.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Yeah, because the US *never* tries to override or manipulate a foreign court to get to foreign persons...

      *cough* Assange *cough* McKinnon *cough*

      • Aside from Assange's accusations and the posturing of random congressmen, what evidence is there are the US is behind the attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden? If the US wanted to go after him, having him in the UK would be much more advantageous, seeing how they have a close legal relationship [wikipedia.org] with the UK.
    • by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @06:31AM (#36278588) Homepage

      Well it is English people using the Californian court system to sue English people.
      Now they have the information they requested from Twitter, they will go back to England and take a similar action against the ISP. Then they will commence libel proceedings against the Twitter account holder; but if the tweets came from a cellphone connection - and twitter has a higher than average proportion of its visits from cellphones, the telco will only be able to say approximately which county the tweet came from, as lots of users share the same public IP address behind a NAT connection. For everyone else, there is the insecure Wifi defence.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        I would be surprised if the trail didn't lead back to a TOR node or proxy. That is basic stuff for staying anonymous online.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        Score 1 for using NAT instead of IPv6.

        There is indeed safety in numbers.

        Granted, the twitter user probably doesn't only post from a phone, and even if so, the police can profile the user by correlating enough posts of the user to the location data, but a layer of obscurity is better than nothing.

        I'd personally use TOR and a TOR-only account if I wanted to write something that might get me into trouble, but that's just me.

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          It is a civil case, so the police will not be involved, but even if they were, they could only trace future posts as the IP data would only tell them that the person was posting from somewhere in the Tyneside area. That doesn't really narrow things down any, because very few people outside of South Tyneside are going to care what these officials are up to.

    • by sosume (680416)

      This is absurd. Tweeting is like saying something on the street in public. How can you be prosecuted for expressing yourself? Time to dump Twitter and find a new ground for exercising free speech.

      • The UK does not have free speech.
        • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:50AM (#36278726)

          The UK does not have free speech.

          Yes it does, via article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights, which is (indirectly) binding on all members of the UN. Of course, there are specific pieces of legislation that are problematic in the light of that right. The UK is not unique in having legislation that is -- er-- problematic in terms of its constitution [*cough* Patriot Act *cough*] is it?

      • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:39AM (#36278716)

        This is absurd. Tweeting is like saying something on the street in public.

        I am not a lawyer, but I know the difference between libel and slander. I'm not sure you do.

  • More flames? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pecisk (688001)

    WTF is with editors these days? First, title of article is totally wrong, because this legislation has NOTHING to do with UK, but with US per se (they had to brought it to US court where there you can still sue for libel, but well you can't do superinjuction woodoo). Article also makes sensationalist claims that this decision helps "That Another Football Player" case - well, it doesn't. This is one, concrete person, who is sued for libel. This is not injunction to stop the spread of information - people who

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it has to do with how twitter has grown itself to a size where they start getting both carrier type of lawsuits(give us what you know of customer 'xx') and press lawsuits(don't print this and that or else). frankly it's the fault of their business model, they shouldn't have started recommending stuff un-automatically(technically, spamming and moderating user names got them into this mess).

  • Personally I think he should be suing his solicitors for not acting in his best interest. The details of almost every "super" injunction have been released, thanks mainly to parliamentary privilege. Once the injunction was made a lot of people wanted to know who it was, so when his name does get released there was massive coverage. They would have known this, but advising your client to put his hand in the air and say mea culpa means you can't charge quite so much.

    Quite frankly I couldn't give a damn about

  • by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @06:03AM (#36278540) Homepage Journal

    Freedom of speech does not include the right to slander or libel people you don't like, and it absolutely does not include the right to do so anonymously. You have the right to free speech - but you also must obey the libel laws, and you must be prepared to take the legal consequences of your free speech.

    • by sosume (680416)

      Does this include private conversations? How about private conversations in a public space? In other words, I cannot both be in a public place AND talk gossip? Because that is what this is about. People eavesdropping on all possible conversations (twitter) and then sue anyone whose conversations you do not like.

      • by stevelinton (4044)

        Twitter is not, in any reasonable sense, a place to have private conversations. A more interesting question perhaps is whether this is slander (defamation in a public but transitory form, as by telling a lot of people verbally) and defamation in a permanent form (as by printing a book). In fact, in this day and age is slander even possible?

        • by Tim C (15259)

          In fact, in this day and age is slander even possible?

          Well, you could commit slander by, oh I don't know, telling a lot of people verbally...

      • by cheros (223479)

        Expecting to have a private conversation on Twitter is like having a discussion with megaphones on the street and expecting that to be somehow private.

        For heaven's sake, when did we remove the clue gene?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Just wait till the state picks up on libel. Dont like cradle to grave protection? Have some issue with distant wars? Eastern Europe used to love the legal consequences of any speech.
    • by Rennt (582550)

      You might not have a protected right to slander, but you absolutely should have the ability to post any kind of information in public anonymously if you really need to.

      The news (and warning) here is that twitter is not the right channel to use if you wish to remain anonymous. Perhaps this is not news to everybody... but after all the "twitter: tool of the people" stories to come out of places like Egypt, it is probably a timely reminder.

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:49AM (#36278724)

      Except telling the truth is neither slander nor libel. This law is consistent in every country I have heard it used in.

      Ryan Giggs had an extra-marital affair with Imogen Thomas.

      See? That wasn't libel.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Except telling the truth is neither slander nor libel. This law is consistent in every country I have heard it used in.

        You should check Italian law. In Italian law you are not allowed to use as defense the "truth" or "notoriety" of statements in defense of a slander or libel case unless very specific scenarios apply (statements about civil servants about their responsibilities, if there are penal proceedings, if the "victim" asks for the truth to be verified in the proceedings).

        • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday May 29, 2011 @10:04AM (#36279170)

          Same as in the UK, which is part of the problem in this case; truth isn't an absolute defense under English libel law. However, in this particular suit in California court, they would have to follow California libel standards. A problem is that they may be able to siphon off evidence this way: sue in U.S. court, lose, but get some evidence through discovery, then introduce that evidence in UK court. A US court would not generally agree to do discovery for a UK libel suit, but it's not clear they would try to stop discovery for a US libel suit being used in a UK libel suit.

      • by Sasayaki (1096761)

        (I am not a lawyer...)

        In Australia, Defamation is an interesting complication, though.

        For example, while you could say "Ryan Giggs had an extra-marital affair with Imogen Thomas", yes, it just means you could say it privately, or in the context of, say, the media. If I were to erect a giant billboard outside their house saying the same, while completely true, would be defamation.

      • by Ltap (1572175)
        IANAL, but from previous /. comments (the case of the chiropractors suing the skeptic), it seems that in British law, something counts as libel if it's considered damaging whether it's true or not, which makes review sites like Yelp very libelous indeed. For an example, if I told people that your restaurant had horrible service it would be libel because it damaged your business, whether or not it was actually true. From the perspective of someone from a legal system that values the truth (which, for all its
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          You are incorrect, it is perfectly possible to review restaurants negatively without libel. Of course, just like in the US, that doesn't prevent people from suing you but unless something you said is factually incorrect you will win. The onus is on the accuser to prove that what you said is incorrect, and that you knew it was so at the time. We don't have punitive damages here so the amount they are awarded if they win is based on the financial loss they have suffered.

        • by Homburg (213427)

          something counts as libel if it's considered damaging whether it's true or not

          That's not exactly true. The problem is that it's up to the person accused of libel to prove that what they said was true, rather than the person making the accusation of libel to prove that what was said is false.

        • by u38cg (607297)
          No. An English (not British) court requires that the person accused of libel prove the truth of their allegation. That is the only real substantive difference between US and English law.
      • Even if it was libel or slander, too damn bad... He has every right to say that he didn't, and that's as far as he should be allowed to take it.

      • Oh, and I forgot to add, he has the right to say the accuser is a liar and anything else he can think of...

      • by gowen (141411)

        Except ... this judgement isn't related in any way to Ryan Giggs or superinjunctions. It's about revealing the source of very specific, possibly untrue, allegations of actual malfeasance in reference to the governance of Sunderland.

      • by steelfood (895457)

        That's true in the states (for now--Obama seems to be on a personal crusade against whistleblowers). However, in British law, libel has much lower requirements to satisfy, and the accused has a much more difficult time proving innocence while facing fairly stiff penalties. It probably stems from not having the freedom of speech explicitly recognized.

        IANAL (especially not a British one), but in the Ryan Giggs case, I believe merely mentioning something prohibited by a superinjunction constitutes as libel (yo

  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:21AM (#36278682) Homepage Journal

    The freedom of speech is not in question in the article. The journalistic source is also not in question. It appears that people who find Twitter turning this information over to be controversial are mistaking Twitter for a journalism publication. Twitter is the mechanical "printing press". Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom on anonymity. The Boston Globe or NYT don't demand that THEIR identity be protected, they demand that the source be protected (and don't always win on that, and sometimes the journalist has to sit in the pen awhile).

    In other words, there is good news and bad news about "self publication". The good news is that you don't have to convince a reporter or editor to run your story. The bad news is that you are identified the same as the editor or reporter is immediately identified when they run their story.

    • The freedom of speech is not in question in the article. The journalistic source is also not in question. It appears that people who find Twitter turning this information over to be controversial are mistaking Twitter for a journalism publication. Twitter is the mechanical "printing press". Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom on anonymity.

      I disagree. I think what we're seeing here is a digital reflection of the same sort of information exchange that would happen normally verbally face to face or via telephone. We are in an adjustment period, the Information age makes old laws irrelevant as our new instantaneous communication and information archival capabilities become a part of human culture.

      Or, would you deny that in public places -- the pub, the park, the barber shop -- that these very same sorts things are said by the general public

      • by Velex (120469)

        I think what we're seeing here is a digital reflection of the same sort of information exchange that would happen normally verbally face to face or via telephone.

        Just because Twitter does this 140 character limitation doesn't magically make it the equivalent of a conversation. You hit on a lot of good points, but the equivalent of a pub conversation is IRC. Telephone? XMPP. Twitter exists to publish your thoughts permanently. IRC logs would be a gray area, but what if you tape-recorded the pub and published the audio at a later date?

        What we're seeing here is an abuse of the legal system by some blockhead that the public sought fit to give tons of money because

        • Just because Twitter does this 140 character limitation doesn't magically make it the equivalent of a conversation. You hit on a lot of good points, but the equivalent of a pub conversation is IRC. Telephone? XMPP. Twitter exists to publish your thoughts permanently. IRC logs would be a gray area, but what if you tape-recorded the pub and published the audio at a later date?

          I think you have not yet looked at the larger picture -- All the information is capable of being recorded and played back, we have not always had this capability. I say it is part of the evolution of man, that we are in the process of entering a new age where this will be the norm. We will develop ways to maintain our privacy when desired, but the culture of man is born of thoughts outside of one mind -- we are beings that have discovered the benefit of having an external mental database. First with spok

  • What seems to be the matter here, and what's really riled up the Labor leader of Tyneside Council, Iain Malcom -- is the actions of an anonymous blogger -- Mr Monkey -- on his blog, rather than Twitter. Twitter is a sideshow. Mr Monkey has thrown most of his dookie on his blog, not on Twitter, but the ever-vengeful Iain Malcolm has seen fit to go after Twitter.

    By the looks of it, Iain Malcom is a bit of a psychopath, who's waging a war against said anonymous blogger, at public expense. Mr Monkey runs a hi

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