Tuesday, 14 June 2011

California Court orders Twitter to hand over data to local UK council

The UK Council of South Tyneside confirmed it has received personal data from the social networking website Twitter after the Superior Court of California ordered the website on 30 May to identify five of its users who had allegedly posted libelous statements about several South Tyneside Council Members.

Twitter has handed over names, IP and email addresses as well as phone numbers. Although “these proceedings have become routine in the US, this is the first time somebody from this country has actually gone to America to force Twitter to release the identities of individuals”, said Mark Stephens, Partner at Finers Stephens Innocent (left). “Given the outcome of this case I definitely expect others to follow.” Ashley Hurst, Senior Associate at Olswang, agreed with that: “[this case] may well encourage others to bring similar actions”.

The lawyers for Ryan Giggs, the footballer who was recently exposed on Twitter despite having taken out a court order to prevent an extra-marital affair from becoming public “could now go to the courts in California to get the identities of the persons behind the Twitter accounts that exposed him”, Stephens said. He does not think the (British) bloggers who exposed Giggs will be prosecuted in the UK since “no one has the stomach for it”. Stephens added that “anonymous blogging is still possible, but has certainly become much more difficult if you are not a web professional”. Hurst added: “This case demonstrates how anonymous internet users are not always as anonymous as they think.”

Michiel Willems, 2011. Published previously in a London based magazine. Copyrights apply at al times. Pictures: South Tyneside Council and BBC news website.