Twitter And Its Users Sued For ‘Naming’ Footballer Granted Privacy

A UK soccer player is apparently taking the radical step of suing Twitter and its users for tweets which broke a court ruling which guaranteed his privacy

On Wednesday at the High Court, a person sued “Twitter Inc and persons unknown responsible for the publication of information on the Twitter accounts”. Twitter tells paidContent:UK: “We’re unable to comment.” It directed us to this recent blog post by Biz Stone and Twitter’s lawyer, in which they set out their approach to censorship and freedom.

In the filing, the plaintiff was named only as “CTB”, the same name given in recent earlier court proceedings, in which the person, reportedly a Premier League soccer star, gained an injunction to block his naming as the celebrity who allegedly had an affair with a model.

Such injunctions have historically been aimed at gagging mainstream news media. The judge who granted this injunction said he was mindful that that the footballer’s family also deserved privacy. But, in a Spring of several such high-profile cases, social media users have tested the limits and viability of the law.

Thousands of Twitter users in the last few weeks have openly named the supposed footballer, frequently in disparaging ways – thanks to which, his supposed identity has now become an open secret, whilst mainstream media continue to exercise caution.

Until now, many observers had merely thrown their hands up in the air and regarded this as a challenge that may force a redefinition of the law, citing the apparent impossibility of gagging both Twitter and its users. But that is now exactly what the plaintiff is trying.

The difficulties are clear…

  1. Twitter is a U.S. firm and, as we reported recently, believes its defence against thousands of complaints it receives each month is watertight, under a section of the U.S. Communications Decency Act. The footballer’s lawyers may argue that Twitter nevertheless facilitated the publication of tweets in to the UK.
  2. Suing users is another matter altogether. Finding the many users who have allegedly broken the injunction would be easy enough – just run a Twitter search. But suing them requires knowing who they are in real life – and, for that, Twitter would have to give up their identities.
  3. Perhaps most of all, the action is like pouring petrol on a fire. In response to the filing, thousands more tweets are now pouring out naming the supposed individual all over again.

Throughout, despite the Twitter buzz, the name of the individual has not appeared in Twitters’ trending lists.