Lord Chief Justice rules on court-side Tweeting

December 22, 2010 | 09:03

Tags: #court #journalism #justice #micro-blogging #microblogging #reporting #smartphone

Companies: #government #twitter

In a surprising move, the highest Justice in the land has given the green light for micro-blogging services such as Twitter to be used while a court is in session - opening the floodgates for a new world of real-time court reporting.

The ruling to allow updates to be posted to micro-blogging services from smartphones while a court is in session was made by Lord Chief Justice Judge - 'Judge' being his surname, not his job title - during the bail hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The ruling, which came as members of the press used popular micro-blogging service Twitter from their smartphones to update 'live blogs' as to the goings on in the courtroom after the doors were closed, is quoted by the BBC as stating that 'the use of an unobtrusive, hand-held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice.'

While the ruling, coming as it does from the highest Justice in the land, is a major victory for those aiming to make court proceedings more transparent, it's far from a blanket statement: individual judges will still be left to decide whether to allow updates to be posted from within their court, and the ban on the recording of sound and images is still in place.

It's this latter fact that could see the right to Twitter quickly struck down: Twitter clients for most smartphones include the ability to harness the on-board camera to capture pictures and video for inclusion in a posting, and rival micro-blogging services such as Audioboo concentrate on providing an audio-based alternative. If too many users start posting photos, videos, and audio snippets from within a courtroom, ignorant of the ban, Twitter and other such services could rapidly find themselves back on the banned list.

Do you think that courts should allow journalists and others more freedom when it comes to reporting the goings-on of a session, or is the ban on audio and video recording there for a very good reason? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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