Twitter users need to change their targets

The definition of the word twitter is “to talk lightly and rapidly, especially of trivial matters”. In 2006, when Twitter founder Jack Dorsey redefined the word in the context of the internet, he would have had little idea of the effect it would have. Today, those 140-character pieces of “trivial matter” have become a thorn in the side of the UK’s privacy laws.

The online social revolution has been predicated on sharing everything, with everybody. While we broadcast the events of our personal lives on Facebook, Twitter has become a one-stop-shop for discovering the secrets of the rich and famous. The service is “making a mockery” of the UK’s privacy laws, according to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a week that saw one Twitter account expose information that celebrities had tried to protect by going through the courts.

The internet’s nature is one of chaos and deregulation. What is surprising is seeing it become a place where a certain standard of morality is upheld.

There are two interests at work here. Those on Twitter are reacting to a draconian law that protects the strong and rich, leaving the victims to face accusations that – legally – they cannot respond to. Conversely, the red-tops thrive off the ‘extra-curricular’ activities celebrities indulge in, and in an economic climate where tabloid newspapers need every scoop they can get, they openly welcome the undermining of privacy laws that leave them out in the cold.

What is becoming clear is that the UK’s privacy laws are futile. While most information bartered on the service is trivial, it does give us an insight into the dramatic effect the likes of Twitter is having on the legal system.

The public loves to gossip. But one hopes that those exposing the truth through the likes of Twitter can learn to turn their attentions from celebrity affairs to the targets that deserve exposing. Twitter started as a place to talk lightly, but it could become a force that makes companies and those in power think twice before they indulge in genuinely illegal affairs.

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“Before we all sink into a slough of digital dystopian despair, it might be worth considering this: is this a sign of the strength, not weakness, of revelatory journalism in the digital age?”


Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS at the London School of Economics, reacts to news that the UK government forced the Guardian into destroying hard drives that contained information leaked by Edward Snowden.


(Source: POLIS)

 

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