Giggs, Twitter and Unmasking Anonymous posters

There are lots of interesting legal angles to the current storm in relation to super injunctions, and the Brodies’ public law team has already blogged about some of them (including the question of whether the Sunday Herald was caught by an English super-injunction).

However, I wanted to pick up on the action taken by Ryan Giggs against Twitter in order to get Twitter to give details of the Twitter users who were naming him as a super injunction holder.

This is not unusual. Quite often a party (or brand owner) objects to on-line comments made under cover of a user name (such as @BrodiesTechBlog on twitter).   However, in order to go to Court against that user you need more than a username, you need the actual name and address of the poster.

How do you get that name and address?

Well, you could ask the hoster, i.e. the person who hosts the relevant forum (in the Giggs case Twitter), to disclose the name and address. However, most hosters won’t give up this information unless compelled to by a Court Order (because of the fear of breaching data protection law).

So you raise proceedings against the hoster to get that court order.   Typically the hoster won’t defend that action (in order to minimise costs).   (In fact yesterday the European boss of Twitter confirmed  that Twitter would comply with any court order to disclose personal details of users. )

In England these orders against hosters are known as Norwich Pharmacal orders (after the first case in which they were used).   Scotland provides for a largely parallel type of order.

My experience is that because the actions are not typically defended by the hoster you can get the order quite quickly/cheaply, and when presented with a Court order the hoster will cough up the information fairly quickly.

Of course all that legal work only gets you the name and address of the person you actually want to sue!  It also assumes that the information the hoster holds is complete and accurate (it’s pretty easy to set up a fake email address).

One final word of caution. Quite often suing an online “nutter” is much more trouble than it is worth because the nutter will: (i) become more determined/vitriolic; and (ii) use the fact that you are taking court action to paint you as a bully or having “something to hide”. To put it another way, when thinking about enforcing legal rights always remember the PR angle (something that certain footballers would be well advised to consider in the future).

2 Responses to “Giggs, Twitter and Unmasking Anonymous posters”

  1. 1 Mike Letchford May 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent and useful commentary Douglas. Will be interesting to see how this pans out.

  1. 1 The joke’s on Twitter – conviction quashed in the Twitter joke trial « Brodies TechBlog Trackback on July 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

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