If you’re the sort of person who comments on unproven and baseless allegations of child abuse, you might want to go through your Twitter feed and start pressing that delete button. Because you could be in a world of trouble very soon.
After the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight broadcast a series of incorrect claims about the Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine, people took to Twitter in droves to discuss, disseminate and reproduce allegations made by a victim of sexual abuse.
Unsurprisingly, Lord McAlpine has not taken kindly to being falsely labelled a child molester, and is gearing up to take legal action against what is described as a “very long list” of Twitter users:
“We have been watching people who have been taking down what they put on Twitter.
What starts at one [Tweet] ends up as 100,000 in some cases.
Twitter is not just a closed coffee shop among friends. It goes out to hundreds of thousands of people and you must take responsibility for it. It is not a place where you can gossip and say things with impunity, and we are about to demonstrate that.”
Andrew Reid – Solicitor representing Lord McAlpine
High-profile users that could be caught up in this case include comedian and actor Alan Davies, and the wife of the current speaker of the House of Commons.
If Lord McAlpine’s legal team takes this to court, it could become a landmark case involving more defendants than any other in British legal history. And it could leave thousands of Twitter users severely out of pocket.
We’d like to remind FirstFound Blog readers to bear the following advice in mind when you take to the social networks:
- As the Twitter joke trial and arrest of a young man over a Facebook photo shows, the authorities take what is said on social networks very seriously
- Nothing you say on the web is private – it can all be unearthed, saved and used against you
- Repeating unfounded and baseless claims about someone who can afford to sue 10,000 people is a stupid idea – even if you’re just retweeting a celebrity
In short – be sensible, and remember that what you say online has real repercussions in your offline life too.
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