The Lord McAlpine situation could be a serious wake up call to everyone using social media.
I read in The Drum today that he “doesn’t intend to cause hardship” to those with fewer than 500 followers. However, as he is intent on suing those with more than 500 followers who tweeted /re-tweeted the allegations (I won’t dare say what they were fear of being sued) there will still be a lot of “normal people” sweating nervously at the thought of the upcoming legal action.
Let’s face it – Twitter is a bit like allowing anyone with an account to publish their own newspaper without any of the costs that would be involved in a traditional newspaper. No staff costs, no print costs, no distribution costs, no materials costs, no need to worry about ad revenue. The result of this is that it doesn’t really matter if nobody reads what you are saying or not, because the only cost to the publisher is time. Have a thought, blurt it out on twitter, forget about it… until the repercussions begin.
This case could prove to be a watershed moment in social media, simply because there will be so many people who just didn’t expect this to happen to them. If you were discussing this case in a pub amongst a group of friends and you said something libelous during the conversation, the chances of being sued are zero.
But once it’s out there in the twittersphere, that’s you screwed matey.
Be interesting to see the outcome of this… if Lord McAlpine really does sue everyone that he’s threatened to (and if he is successful in this) we will presumably see a mass industry of “no win no fee” twitter law firms spring up overnight, clambering over each other to win new business from anyone who might have been defamed in some way, shape or form.
And maybe there could be some social media disobedience movement that starts up, recruiting armies of fearless volunteers/martyrs to tweet libelous remarks about people with the aim of bringing the civil claims court crashing down under the sheer weight of cases.
Big Brother is here people… watch this space.