Tweets are not private, rules watchdog in landmark case

Tom Peck
Wednesday 09 February 2011 01:00 GMT

A civil servant who claimed invasion of privacy when her Twitter messages were reprinted in newspapers has had her complaint rejected by the press regulator.

Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport manager, last year published a series of tweets critical of the coalition's cuts, attacking Downing Street "spin" and telling her 700 followers that the leader of a training course she attended was "mental". The comments were published in the Daily Mail and The Independent on Sunday in November. Ms Baskerville said this information was only meant to be seen by her followers. Deciding in the newspapers' favour today, the PCC said the fact that tweets are publicly accessible on the web was key.

"It was quite clear that the potential audience for the information was actually much larger than the 700 people who followed the complainant directly, not least because any message could easily be retweeted to a wider audience," the regulator said. The decision also took into account civil service rules on political impartiality, which the newspapers said justified highlighting Ms Baskerville's views.

"The commission is increasingly being asked to make judgments about what can legitimately be described as private information," said PCC director Stephen Abell.

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