A defence of responsible tweeting

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Defamation law is based on the practices of the conventional mass media: newspapers and broadcasters. As Rowbottom suggests, ‘(t)he safeguards for free speech were shaped by the years of litigation with mass media and thereby framed with the mass media, rather than the casual amateur, in mind.’ The ‘new’ media, the ‘social’ media – and Twitter in particular – works in very different ways than the conventional mass media: should it not be possible for the law to reflect this?

This article suggests a way forward. It sets out a new defence, specially designed for the social media, and Twitter in particular: a ‘defence of responsible tweeting’. The essence is that a tweet should have a defence if it is based on what for Twitter might be considered a reliable source. Tweeters should not be expected to ‘fact-check’ those sources, whether they be conventional media sources or the ‘big players’ of the social media world. Similarly, tweeters should not be expected to be experts in defamation law: they should be able to know that in ‘normal’ circumstances, where they behave responsibly they will be protected. This is not a suggestion that Twitter should be given some kind of blanket immunity – there is little doubt that ‘twitterstorms’ can do great harm, as can abusive or offensive tweeting. It is responsible tweeting that should be supported, not irresponsible tweeting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)12-19
Number of pages8
JournalCommunications Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Defamation
  • Twitter

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