Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Political Banter or Slander?

It was reported in the Cornish Guardian, in the Evening Herald… In fact, it even made the Daily Mail. Not the redrawing of Cornwall’s constituencies and definitely none of the serious politics stuff usually discussed on this blog. Cornwall’s Councillors Tweeting about their boss during a meeting. Surprisingly perhaps, they weren’t making fun of her policies or even anything political. Just her lack of technological ability and the rules she’d imposed for the meeting; keeping phones switched off.

We’ve all heard about individuals getting fired following their Facebook antics. But what about politicians tweeting half way through a meeting or from the floor of Parliament? Fortunately, for the Councillors, Pat Harvey, the Council leader took the comments with good humour, with just the media making a song and dance of the situation. However, with Twitter also being used to attack the opposition, how long is it before it can constitute slander or even libel?

It reminds me of a recent story from Parliament. A Government whip from the Labour party; MP David Wright tweeted that the Conservative party were a bunch of, “Scum-sucking pigs.” Of course, his opponents jumped on this action and one Tory blogger has even started an Internet campaign to help the party’s candidate in Telford, Tom Biggins, to overturn Mr Wright’s 5,500 majority at the General Election. Wright immediately apologized for his choice of words but said that the content was acceptable.

Again, no prosecution arose. However, with fewer people using traditional news sources; Twitter and similar Web 2.0 applications are bound to be one of the election’s battlegrounds, so it will be interesting to see the legal and political repercussions of the next few months.


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