British injunction system under stress as footballer is named in a Scottish paper and thousands of tweets
Thousands of Twitter users have tweeted the name of a footballer, in protest at his efforts to force disclosure of a tweeter who first revealed his name, which cannot be used in mainstream media because of an injunction.
Although it has been assumed that privacy orders to not apply to online social media, the footballer has gained a disclosure order that demands Twitter reveal details of the user who posted a list of celebrities with alleged injunctions two weeks ago. Meanwhile, foreign media such as Forbes have identified the footballer, as has the Scottish Sunday Herald, arguing that the injunction does not apply in Scotland. And the Telegraph has reported that a Times journalist faces a charge of being in contempt of court, for tweeting the footballer’s name.
Naming on Twitter
The row is stressing the UK’s system of injunctions, which exists to protect privacy of people in the media’s eye. Since the Twitter user revealed a (partly incorrect) list of injunctions, interest has massively increased, and the case has become more widely known, but the mainstream media are unable to repeat information that has now been tweeted by upwards of 30,000 people – although they can report false rumours which are not subject to an injunction.
“Websites such as Twitter have put a huge strain on the ability of the courts to enforce gagging orders and it has been widely assumed there is no legal redress against them,” said the BBC‘s media correspondent Torin Douglas. “Now it seems the law is about to be tested.”
The case is about more than just celebrity affairs. Two years ago, Wikipedia and Twitter users broke a super-injunction issued to shipping company Trafigura, which forbade discussion of allegations the company had dumped toxic waste in Cote d’Ivoire – and even banned mention of the injunction.
And while the celebrity Twitter storm has continued, an injunction has been applied to Twitter and Facebook – despite the widespread belief that such a thing cannot be done. The case should have more public sympathy as it is designed to protect a mother and her brain-damaged daughter.
The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has told the BBC he is not seeking contempt proceedings against the Sunday Herald.