Week 5 – Social Media & Law

I have been interested in law for a while after studying two law modules in the 3rd year of my undergraduate degree. However, I was unsure about how the law specifically linked to Social Media.
Bob Calver gave us a presentation where he explained how any part of the law applies to Social Media. One of the main points he focused on was just because you delete a tweet/comment etc, DOES NOT mean you are protected. Once you have posted something online, you are liable for any consequences it brings with it.

The 3 sections of the law we covered were:

  • Contempt – injunctions and reporting cases
  • Defamation – protecting reputations
  • Copyright – using someone else’s work



The section of the law which involves content means it is illegal to pass on any communication from a court case. This is in place to protect the victim from allowing the jury to be affected by the information they are shown, before prosecution occurs.

However, in 2011 the law changed to allow people to use devices connected to the interest. Although, if this is found to interfere with what occurs in the court, it will be stopped. This is very helpful for journalists, but there are rules in places to protect people involved.

One rule Bob discussed was that you can’t talk about anyone involved, you can’t name them or discuss the crime, due to the possibility of the jury being influenced.

We were told about the time John Terry was charged with racial abuse. Tony Barton who was involved in football at the time, expressed his opinions on Twitter. He did delete the tweet however, it was still published and could have influenced the jury’s or public’s opinion.

Contempt also involved injunctions.  This is where someone can go to court and ask for a certain piece of content to not be used due to a breach of privacy. According to the human right act, we are all entitled to a right to privacy in our home, family, personal life and health & wellbeing. It also gives us a freedom of expression so these do clash, but injunctions are given if the information is private.

An example of this is is the Ryan Giggs case. He knew that a Sunday newspaper was going to write a story about him which could harm his reputation. Giggs got a injunction so the newspaper couldn’t use his name. He was known as ‘footballer A’.

However, there was a problem because although England, Wales and Northern Ireland are covered by the contempt of court act, Scotland aren’t. A Scottish newspaper published a photo which was visible as Ryan Giggs. The photo went viral on Twitter then an MP asked for confirmation about the reports. This then allowed anyone to report about it.



Defamation applies to all media outlets and aims to protect people’s reputations.

The example Bob gave us was when Sally Bercow got into trouble about a tweet she posted. Lord Mcalpine was linked to child sex abuse and received an injunction to prevent the press from reporting on it. During this time, Mcalpine was trending on Twitter so Sally Bercow tweeted asking why Lord Mcalpine was trending. He sued her for defamation and won, eventhough Bercow claimed she was ‘innocently’ asking why he was trending.

Bob Calver also pointed out even if you share the post you are liable to be sued because it counts as a new publication.



Anything that is created is a creative work so automatically has copyright under the UK law. The law assumes on your behalf that you (the author) has the paternity right in that piece of work.

The person who created the work owns the intellectual property. You can dispose of it by selling it, giving it away, renting it out for a period of time, you can break it up and sell different parts, but the copyright is yours until you dispose of it.

The law states you need to take steps to ensure you are not misusing other people’s material. Therefore, you should seek their permission before using it. You can’t use someone’s work and then ask for permission because you will have already posted it.


I found the lecture very interesting and helpful! In the past I have used google images for my own work and not though about asking for permission first! However, now I am working with clients, it is essential for me to ask for permission to prevent getting my client into trouble with the law.



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