Is the tweet mightier than the law?

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  • There's an enormous assumption here that needs challenging: "The law treats it all as written." Really? Why would that be the case, and what would be the justification?

    For example, the section of the Sexual Offences Act (1992) used in the Ched Evans case very clearly described just two out of all the communications media that existed at that time: newspapers and television. It's not remotely clear why it would be correct, or anything other than nonsensical, to assume that the drafters envisaged the creation of Twitter and intended such a medium to be included.

    A much more natural assumption would be that they did not, and that new legislation would be required if parliament wished to apply the same rules to Twitter and other new types of communication service.

    The conversational nature of most communication via Twitter is surely much more pertinent than the fact that it happens to be "written". If an audio chat equivalent of Twitter were invented, would that be a "publication"? If deaf people hold a conversation via speech-to-text, is that now "written", or is it still speech?

    Abramson is right to point out that "Traditionally, people take more care over what they write than what they say." This is, in fact, essential to the nature of "publication" as traditionally understood. Twitter is spur-of-the-moment speech (except when it isn't, and is used as a proxy for publication, which is a special case) and cannot logically or justly be subject to the same rules. Untrained people can't be expected to abide by media law when they tweet.

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