Ian Burrell: Can the law really keep up with the net?


Saturday 21 May 2011 00:00 BST

Yesterday's super-injunctions report will have reassured those in the legal profession who hold the view that media outrage over the use of gagging orders by rich celebrities is largely a concoction of the tabloids.

Lord Neuberger's committee acknowledged a "justifiable concern" over super-injunctions and said there was "a clear danger" that "unless kept within strict bounds" such measures could lead to a "form of permanent secret justice". But the committee found that since January 2010, the use of super-injunctions has largely evaporated. The message was broadly that courts were upholding the law as Parliament had intended.

That will not please those in the media who argue that the behaviour of users of social media in identifying claimants of injunctions has made a farce of the system. Lord Neuberger was "very conscious" the traditional media saw the system as "unfair", but asserted that national newspapers had greater public trust and circulation than bloggers and tweeters.

But the strident comments of the 70-year-old Lord Chief Justice on the pernicious side of "modern technology" will not have encouraged those from Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt downwards who see Britain's future as a society connected by fast broadband with a media ecology unfettered by regulation.

The idea that those who breach injunctions and spread lies online should be pursued like paedophiles may also alarm digital evangelists who regard gagging orders as anathema, even if issued by the courts.

Meanwhile, the mystery internet user who posted a list of super-injunction claimants on Twitter recently still retains his account. But his tally of followers has stalled at 117,000, probably due to a realisation "he" would be unwise to tweet again.

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