Twitter vs BBC over UK gagging-order lawsuit article

If you thought that a lawsuit seeking to individually sue more than 30 000 people for sending out 140-character-long messages in one fell swoop was ridiculous and would be thrown out, think again. Seeing as the trial seems to be progressing, Twitter has now in its own way — through tweets — officially stated its position on the matter.

Speaking at the niftily named “eG8” summit in Paris yesterday, Twitter’s recently appointed GM of European Operations Tony Wang, seems to have raised some controversy.

A BBC report stated: “Tony Wang said people who did ‘bad things’ needed to defend themselves.” Under the subheading, “Little sympathy”, the report went on to say: “He [Wang] said Twitter would, ‘let them exercise their own legal rights under their own jurisdiction, whether that is a motion to quash the order or to oppose it or do a number of other things to defend themselves’.”

But it would seem the BBC had forgotten who they were dealing with.

Following in the footsteps of countless others who have felt that they were misquoted or misrepresented in mainstream media outlets, Wang took to his Twitter account to set the story straight.

In a series of follow-up tweets to the article, Wang explained how he was “shocked by the BBC article”, which he felt was “construed… very irresponsibly”.

And Twitter rallied in support of Wang.

Twitter’s VP of Communications, Sean Garret, also took to his account, tweeting: “very disappointing coverage of eG8 panel with Tony Wang by the BBC. Words completely taken out of context.”

Twitter’s General Counsel (the company’s chief lawyer), Alexander Macgillivray, also entered into the fray, clarifying with links to Twitter’s official policy in such matters: “Our policy is to notify users and we have fought to ensure user rights. Sadly, some more interested in headlines than accuracy.” He went a step further, linking to tweets from people who had been at the panel, one of whom said: “Tony Wang rec [recommendation] to G8: open expression on Internet shld be part of human rights framework.”

History is with the Twitter fight-back campaign on this one. The company has never willingly ceded anyone’s personal data to courts anywhere.

The most memorable case of this happening was with Julian Assange, when the microblog notified him that they had received a subpoena for his personal data from the US government — something they do not have to do — which finally gave Assange the evidence to prove that the US was after him.

As Twitter is an American company — therefore beyond the jurisdiction of UK courts — questions still remain as to whether they would have to answer any court orders.

However, were Twitter to receive a court order requesting the details of the 30 000 users involved in the super-injunction, it seems the chances that they would do it remain very unlikely.



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