Twitter invited to talk to privacy committee

Twitter executives will be asked to give evidence to a parliamentary committee looking into injunctions and privacy issues.

Conservative MP John Whittingdale has been asked by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to set up a committee of MPs and peers to look into privacy issues. He said that both Twitter – whose site has been used to break several alleged injunctions, most recently yesterday – and Google could inform debate on the issue. "I would have thought we would certainly want to hear from Twitter," Mr Whittingdale said.

"Twitter has an ethical policy and they respect laws in each jurisdiction so I thought they would want to come."

Twitter said it had not yet received a formal request for what would be the first time it had been called to give evidence to a British parliamentary committee.

This week it gave a British tweeter's personal details to a court in California in response to a libel claim. The committee would have no power to summon Twitter to give evidence as it is a US-registered company, Mr Whittingdale said, adding that the problem of creating a UK law which was workable in an age of global technology was challenging.

"The only way in which you can trace them [those breaching orders] is to get two companies to co-operate," he said. "Twitter has a record of the IP [internet protocol] address and then you can go to the ISP [internet service provider] to reveal the person behind the address.

"But that could be Starbucks... you can't cut off Starbucks because somebody went in for a coffee and file shared, for example."

He added: "I sat on the Bill for the Communications Act 2003, the word internet barely features in that act but now we are going to have a new communications act because broadcasting is completely transformed by the internet."

The committee was planned after the Prime Minister said the law should be reviewed to "catch up with how people consume media today".

The committee is due to report in the autumn, but its terms of reference, members and chair were still to be decided, Mr Whittingdale said.

Social media companies, including Facebook, have given evidence to parliamentary committees in the past and Google has co-operated with similar requests – including giving evidence to a Department for Culture Media and Sport committee in 2009.

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