As the 'Jon Venables' Twitter pics make clear, our current laws can't handle social media

The law was written to deal with publishers and journalists, not private individuals, but with the advent of social media, everyone is a publisher

Share
Related Topics

Jurors Googling the defendant whose case they are hearing to find out information that they shouldn't know; Jurors befriending the defendant of the case they are hearing on Facebook; Twitter users ignoring court rulings and tweeting prohibited information and pictures to a mass audience, instantly and indelibly.  With over 30 million Facebook users and 10 million active Twitter accounts, social media holds a dominating place in today’s society, and its impact on the workings of the justice system is beginning to be felt. 

In recent months Twitter, and other social media platforms, have been invited into the courtroom to allow for instantaneous reporting; a positive use of modern technology in a rather archaic setting.

However, with the benefits there also comes the potential for abuse, which can lead to the collapse of criminal trials and, ultimately, to justice not being done. With the news today that pictures purporting to be of Jon Venables have appeared online despite a worldwide injunction preventing this exact thing, it is becoming clear that our current laws are not adequate to deal with the rapid development and use of social media.

The UK contempt of court laws are focused on regulating publishers and journalists and not individual members of the general public, but with social media everyone is potentially now a publisher, and the law cannot, it seems, deal with this. Consultation to rectify this is underway and reforms to the law are in the pipeline but changing the law is a slow process, and is much slower than the technological advances it attempts to police; it is likely that by the time the law has been amended to deal with the current threats posed to the justice system by the abuse of the social media laws then new ways to abuse the system, that hadn't been anticipated or legislated for, will have developed.

Jo Boylan-Kemp is principal lecturer at Nottingham Law School

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Chemistry Teacher - long term opportunity in Chester

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for an experienced Che...

Nursery Workers x3

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Workers x 3 Greater Manches...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits