Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Twitter versus the Injunction - A Lawyer's 'Take'

"It is indeed a sorry state of affairs when the due process of law is confounded, not by government, but by the forces of populism and the shallow and capricious phenomenon that we call the internet. That the users of a social networking site like 'Twitter' defeated an established legal firm seeking to protect the reputation of its esteemed client, is indeed troubling.

It is apparent to many not just in my own profession, but in the business community and in certain areas of government that the 'world wide web' is behaving like the 'wild west': It has become barbarous. Long established laws, principles and ethics are being casually disregarded. Procedure, convention, practice in the orderly, responsible dissemination of information are being trampled underfoot by gossip, speculation and chatter. The execution of appropriate legal undertakings are being undermined by frivolous and unbalanced opinion.

When an established law firm went to court this week to obtain an injunction it followed due legal process. It did so to protect its respected client from the kind of tittle tattle that is rife on the internet and that can destroy the reputation of a company as well as the livelihoods of its employees. That an august institution as the Law can easily be undermined should give us pause for thought. Who will defend you or me when our reputations have been thus maligned?

Do we really want an internet that is wild and capricious, that has no rules nor boundaries? What if, say, we lived in a world where anyone, yes anyone, had access to the law, whatever their intent, whatever their status, and despite their inability to 'put their money where their mouth is'? Well then Law would become a mockery, a free-for-all where any man could take issue with any other - however nefarious, or shallow, or ill-informed his intent might be. The courts would be overrun and would no longer have the capacity to defend those who generate wealth, those who keep our society ticking along - those who make society what it is.

Surely we do not want all men and women to have free and unbridled access to the internet any more than we would want them to have free and unbridled access to the law? For that, we surely understand, must lead to the breakdown of everything that this society stands for, the trampling under foot of everything that is dear to us."
(Lawyers name and firm withheld)