Advice from the Attorney General on twitter – a helpful reminder to think before you tweet!


Today I was invited to comment on Premier Radio’s news hour on the story that the Attorney General will now be issuing advice publicly (on the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) section of the website and also through the AGO’s twitter feed, @AGO_UK) on contempt of court relating to the use of social media around high profile court cases.

Listen to part of my interview here:

This tells us a few things:

We are all publishers now

Remember that anything you write online could be used in a court of law. Be aware that if you cannot prove the truth of what you are tweeting you could be held in contempt of court. I did a bit of research and there is a useful list of recent twitter cases on the BBC website here, this mentions that the law applies to retweets as well. The Guardian has also created this helpful guide to not getting into trouble through Twitter.

We’ll see more of these announcements as the Law catches up

The Attorney General’s Twitter account tweeted today:

I think there will be more and more need to update our laws with regard to the rapid changes we have seen in technology in the last 5 years or so. Expect more of these announcements.

Twitter is becoming a core tool – for government as well as the public

I thought it was a really nice touch that the Attorney General’s office will use Twitter to publish these advisories (legal notices). This was a good way of highlighting that it is the appropriate use of twitter that is of concern, not the platform itself.

This is all a timely reminder that we should think before we tweet. It makes me think of Benjamin Ellis’ brilliant mnemonic:

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Facebook needs to reinstate a ban on all beheading videos #banbeheading


I was emailed by a friend last night and alerted to the fact that Facebook had reversed a ban on videos showing graphic violence such as beheadings. The BBC reported it last night. Then today PM David Cameron tweeted:

After I hastily looked for a petition to sign against this and had an email exchange on what could be done last night, today I was invited to speak on News Hour on Premier Radio. You can listen to the interview here:


I have been trying to decide what is the best course of action. I’m hoping that partly the media furore this has caused will make Facebook reconsider this move. A spokeswoman for Facebook said:

“Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they’re connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events. However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content.”

I believe that the argument that people share these videos to raise awareness of human rights abuses is fundamentally flawed. We don’t need to watch a video of someone being beheaded to know that it is wrong – not to mention the psychological damage to us from seeing these images (and they are not only detrimental to children but to adults as well). Having a warning that the image contains graphic content is an enticing statement (I have to admit that kind of warning usually makes me want to watch the content – so I’m sure children would be even more likely to want to see all the gory details). This clearly does not go far enough. Facebook needs to reinstate the ban immediately.

What seems very strange to me is that Facebook’s own policy on videos is stated as follows:

Photos and videos containing nudity, drug use or other graphic content are not allowed on Facebook. We also don’t allow photos or videos that glorify violence or attack an individual or group.

How these violent videos of beheadings do not violate this policy I do not know.

In an attempt to do something more about this I have created a twibbon campaign.

Ban videosIf you agree with me you may well want to sign the petition and also change your Facebook profile picture here until Facebook reverses their reckless and dangerous decision.

I will post up here any further campaigns and details as they become available.

Update 23 October

Things are moving at facebook but perhaps not far enough: Facebook in death clip policy U-turn