Twitter user leaves super-injunctions in tatters

The use of Twitter raises practical difficulties about super-injunction's feasibility
The use of Twitter raises practical difficulties about super-injunction's feasibility

By Ian Dunt

Several super-injunctions appeared to be in tatters last night after a Twitter user tried to unmask several celebrities.

The use of the social networking site to break the injunctions raises questions about their feasibility in the current media environment.

The development comes days after Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming tried to undermine the legal tool using an altogether more traditional weapon: parliamentary privilege.

Super-injunctions prevent a story about a celebrity - usually an affair - from being reported and from there being any reports of the original ban.

But parliamentary privilege allowed Mr Hemming to bring some of them into the public domain.

Parliament does not allow MPs to intervene in live court cases, but super-injunctions do not actually involve live court proceedings so Commons authorities have been nervously allowing Mr Hemming's contributions to stand.

The practise has also been criticised by the prime minister, who has expressed unease at the instrument, and Tory MP Louise Bagshawe, who was censored on the BBC programme Have I Got News for You last month when she made a joke about ne particular case.

"You cannot keep things secret in this day and age because of Twitter and other social networking websites, which are outside the British jurisdiction," she said.

"One wonders if the celebrities who have taken out super-injunctions might regret it now as rather than one or two days of embarrassment they face a saga which goes on for months."

The Twitter user posted details of several individuals, some of which were certainly false.

Jemima Khan tweeted: "I've woken up trapped in a bloody nightmare.

"Rumour that I have a super-injunction preventing publication of "intimate" photos of me and Jeremy Clarkson. NOT TRUE!"

A report on the use of super-injunctions is expected later this month from the Master of the Rolls, after several leading politicians raised concerns that the courts were effectively writing up new privacy laws without any parliamentary involvement.

The report will have to address whether the super-injunctions can be applied to online content, because, as last night showed, any tool which applies to the official media but not to social networking sites will be considered impotent.

James Quartermaine, solicitor in the Sports & Media Group at Charles Russell LLP, commented: "There may well be serious consequences for people willfully flouting court injunctions and it may well be that the comfort of anonymity for those posting on Twitter proves to be illusory in the face of the court's power to order their identity to be revealed.

"However there is a real danger that such injunctions will cease to command legitimacy and respect in the public eye if they are seen to be out of step with the reality of the internet where it takes only a couple of clicks to reveal an enormous amount of speculation and perhaps real information from a myriad of 'sources' about these super injunctions."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.