In the furore over injunctions (often super-, sometimes hyper-) one thing as struck me a absolutely wrong. The fact that a single judge, sat considering evidence presented by expensive lawyers, is capable of ruling over what information is and what isn't in the public interest.
Reliable news outlets are now reporting Cabinet will meet to consider its options; reportedly including measures to regulate, read: censor, social websites such as Twitter.
I use the word censorship deliberately and considerately. Imagine for instance the recent revelations of stars alleged to hold injunctions. The injunctions were issued by a UK court, with UK jurisdiction. Consider the possibility that these revelations were posted by an overseas Twitter user.
Can a UK court force Twitter to remove such posts? I very much think a US-based company would consider this an attack on US constitution first amendment rights to free speech.
So what's the alternative? UK government could attempt to order such posts freely available to view overseas to be censored from UK viewing, one way or another. Either with the co-operation of the service provider, or via some other net filtering system.
Both these thoughts horrify me, especially since we're defending a solitary judge's ability to judge public interest balance against the public's natural ability to pass on items of interest, and filter news not of interest.
Don't blame the message-passing service
I see public opinion currently being whipped by the tabloid press in support of press freedom, but more measured tones from quality dailies and broadcast news outlets.
This time I sit with the tabloids.
Asking ordinary people to consider how they'd feel if their privacy was invaded on Twitter is somewhat moot, since it deliberately conflates personal privacy with a very specific problem of widespread publication; applicable, in the most part, only to celebrities.
Don't believe me? Think Twitter can carry a rumour (true or false) about an ordinary citizen to millions or people?
As someone who's spent the last 18 months analysing how to spread information via the social web, as well as a local politician trying to disseminate community news, I assure you it's hard enough to get 30 people to view a picture or read a blog about something I feel is of interest.
So you have my blessing. I won't sue. Tweet about me and some imaginary dalliance with two ladies of the night. It won't go viral. It might get a retweet or 2 - if it's of interest to the reader.
And that if my point about public interest. The social web is not designed as a broadcast tool, where one person can transmit a message and millions will consume that message.
Some users have amassed a following large enough to make it a personal broadcast tool, but those named high-profile individuals are clearly identified, residents of a particular given country and clearly subject to national laws of privacy and libel.
But the medium itself is largely asynchronous - each participant can transmit and receive messages. And messages get relayed by others (retweeted) when they are of interest. Twitter is itself a judge of public interest.
Whatever the flaws in the social internet, and granted I accept it will have its own pitfalls, it has to be a better judge of public interest than a solitary cloistered judge considering arguments presented by way of a well-paid firm of solicitors representing the interest of the right and powerful.
Net censorship isn't technically feasible - I don't need to defend porn to fight the UK net filtering proposals
It's a jurisdictional nightmare - The Elastic Jurisdiction
Social web restores democracy of information - Trust filters and viral messaging antibodies in social networks: part one - vapour shields, and a brief history of comms