'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

Summary: An injunction has directly prevented the spread of disclosure to Facebook and Twitter. Why is the US unphased by 'super-injunction society', and how to citizen journalists fit in?


An injunction was granted yesterday in London which specifically barred Facebook and Twitter users in the United Kingdom from publishing information pertaining to a court case.

While British courts cannot police the entirety of Twitter or its users, anyone in the United Kingdom who is found to have broken this could face contempt of court charges.

Perhaps I spoke too soon; naively thinking Twitter would 'revolt' against such gagging orders.

The injunction, granted by a high court judge in Britain, specifically bars social media users of Facebook and Twitter, as well as other media from identifying the names of those involved in a case regarding the switching off of a persons' life-support.

The order was issued as a result of the events on Twitter over the weekend, with names purporting to owning super-injunctions were published by anonymous users. It comes as questions relating to freedom of speech and the freedom of the presses are asked.

Twitter's UK traffic reaching its highest traffic level ever on Monday as names spread across the service.

Because the injunction is able to be reported, it means the court order is not a 'super-injunction'.

But as super-injunctions are seemingly a British-only concept, with the exception of U.S.-authority issued National Security Letters which act in a similar capacity to super-injunctions, why are American's baffled at the concept that one's right to free speech could be limited?

Super-injunctions: A very British affair

Across the pond to the United States, the right to freedom of speech is constitutionally bound. Though the United Kingdom has a constitution, it is uncodified and therefore evolutionary, malleable and continually being edited and moulded by acts of law.

In the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression. While one is allowed to walk down a street without fear of harm, it does polarise to allow such acts as burning a holy book, like a Qur'an, which sparked violent protests in the Middle East.

But differences in the law make for a wide range of Gawker-style websites, from TMZ which reported the death of Michael Jackson and the rise of citizen journalism, and unrestricted and unchecked accusations flying around social media sites.

The BBC points out that in the United States, "a published statement about a public figure is assumed to be true and complainant must prove it's false", while the reverse is true in Britain with the defendant must prove it to be true.

For a super-injunction to be ordered, one key element is the balance of the equities: "testing the harm of publishing against the rights of the publisher". The First Amendment alone makes this very difficult to clear.

While super-injunction society is infringing ordinary freedom of speech, it does align social media sites like Twitter and Facebook with other traditional news outlets.

Citizen journalism may only be able to capture specific events in time, like the Hudson River plane crash and arguably the raid which led to the death of Osama bin Laden. But citizen journalists with cameraphones and social media access may be given as a result the same rights and freedoms, but also restrictions as the members of the press.

Related content:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Should citizens' be under the same rules as members of the press?

    Or should the two remain separate? Are British rights being infringed, or does this go with the territory of an unwritten constitution? What do you think about gagging orders -- are they ever effective, or will social media pretty much kill them dead in the water?
    • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain


      Privacy and Security concerns should kill Social Networking but the youth in the US is blind because they're so caught up in their phones that they learn less in school and focus more on the BS. Give it 10-15 years and the US will be dead last in education and we will owe it all to the Family Plan at your local phone carrier.
      • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain


        No, you won't, because people in China, Japan, etc. have phones as well.

        Let's stop blaming that on phones and technology and start blaming the fact that it doesn't exist.

        Yes, you read right: IT DOESN'T EXIST that we are going to be 'dead last' unless you think that everyone not taking HIGHER EDUCATION courses like Algebra and higher, physics and higher, etc. is 'bad'.
        It's not!
    • I think they should be.


      An independent reporter shouldn't have any more or less rights, responsibilities and protections than a network backed reporter, nor should the be held to different standards.
  • Non Journalists

    The problem with listening to non journalists is that it is hard to know if there was any fact checking or corroboration to verify a story. There is also the lack of responsibility of the non journalists that can cause harm in the courts.

    Responsible and ethical journalists report events and work to maintain their reputation. A journalist without a good reputation has to work harder to be taken seriously. A tweet or blog by a non journalist who does not have good standards of reporting is just a rumor.

    In the event that the govenment has become excessive in controlling its people then tweets can get information to those who need it. Social media was a big factor in the Egyptian revolution and worked for a positive outcome.
    • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

      @sboverie@... However journalists can no longer be assumed to be honest as they have been corrupted by their own employers thru employment constraints. Thru acts over the past decade the big money/power brokers have found a way to muffle the journalist at a minimum and make the journalist their own spin master in some case. How?

      1) Mass merging of communications companies so that the majority of news outlets are owned by a handful of international corporations.

      2) High unemployment + bad economy: The current economic conditions make it hard, very hard for all but the most known journalists to get employment if they've been blacklisted by an employer for going against the grain and printing what they wanted instead of what they were told. Don?t think this happens? Just read about the invective journalism piece done by 2 former Fox news duo whose piece on Monsanto?s was shelved by Fox after Monsanto?s Legal team stepped in and made threats to Fox. You can see the whole piece within the documentary THE CORPORATION. I believe its part 25 at the Youtube video website that has the entire documentary available on line in parts.
    • RE:Non Journalists

      @sboverie@... "Responsible and ethical journalists" This is an oxymoron is it not. They are only interested in sensationalism and selling. True Reporting without spin died in the 60's. Paparazzi has proven this. The non professional will probably get the story straight because they have no agenda. Phone video's, Tweets, Blogs from real people who are there. Frame Of Reference Reporting is better than Political Correctness.
  • Business opportunity?

    Perhaps some enterprising non-Brit would consider launching a website called uncensorednewsforbrits.com to fill in the blanks?

    Reminds me of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerry_Adams#Voice_ban

    • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

      @011010100010100 Somebody should. I'm a Brit and, like many others, think the whole idea of a court order whose existence cannot be revealed stinks of dictatorship. On Gerry Adams, the ban was a stupid idea but the guy was a convicted terrorist - what would have happened to him in Bush's America?
  • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

    "while the reverse is true in Britain with the defendant must prove it to be true."

    While that may be true from a point of law, I highly doubt it is true for public perception. The American viewpoint is probably much more realistic when dealing with human nature.
    • Canada's laws are similar to Britain's.


      In Canada one cannot knowingly make false claims. In the U.S. one can. We just had a case where our Conservative Government tried to change this rule for the Fox News subsidiary Sun TV.

  • This is more about "dictatorship" than about journalism.

    People are being told what to do by people with an agenda who have been given ridiculous power to try and make it stick.
    Bad form.
  • Canadian Election

    On May 2nd citizens were subjected to the same publication ban as the Press on election results being reported during the time between the polls closed in the east until the time they closed in the West.<br><br><a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/story/2011/05/02/cv-twitter-ban.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/story/2011/05/02/cv-twitter-ban.html</a>
  • One Country's Super-Injunction worthless on a worldwide network

    And how long before someone from United Kingdom who knows the names comes to the U.S., tells someone with a Twitter or Facebook account, who posts it here? Not long, and then the US publication can be forwarded worldwide.
  • RE: 'Tech-injunction' gags Twitter, Facebook users: Why super-injunctions only apply to Britain

    Leftists are compulsive liars, how could they ever make anything but false claims.