High Court writ issued via Twitter
Britain’s High Court has ordered its first injunction via Twitter, claiming that the micro-blogging service was the best way to reach an anonymous Tweeter who had been impersonating someone.
Solicitors Griffin Law sought the injunction against the Blaneysblarney Twitter account, arguing it was impersonating right-wing blogger Donal Blaney, the owner of Griffin Law.
The legal first could have widespread implications for the service. “I think this is a landmark decision to issue a writ via Twitter,” says Dr Konstantinos Komaitis of Strathclyde University’s law faculty. “You are creating a precedent that people will be able to refer to. It only takes one litigant to open the path for others to follow.”
“The law tends to be quite cumbersome and slow, so to have a court deliberate on something like Twitter – so hot, so relevant – it shows quite impressive engagement.”
People have to learn that they can no longer hide behind the cloak of anonymity the internet provides
Andre Walker at Griffin Law says the anonymous Tweeter targeted by the writ will get a message from the High Court the next time they open their online account. “Whoever they are, they will be told to stop posting, to remove previous posts and to identify themselves to the High Court via a web link form,” he says.
Matthew Richardson, the barrister who won the injunction, claims the ruling was a huge step forward in preventing anonymous abuse of the internet. “People have to learn that they can no longer hide behind the cloak of anonymity the internet provides and break the law with impunity,” he says.
Online impersonations have become increasingly prevalent on Twitter. Leading Tweeters such as Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have hundreds of Twitter impersonators.
The problem has grown so large that Twitter earlier this year launched a system to verify the authenticity of Tweets. A seal, which appears on the top right of profile pages, is aimed for use on high profile Twitter accounts.
Impersonating people or organisations is contrary to Twitter’s terms of service and Tweeters who do not wish to take out a legal writ over the problem can contact Twitter.