British media must now mind one’s tweets

UK journalist and newspaper Twitter feeds are set to be brought under the regulation of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) later this year, the first time that it has sought to bring social media messages under its remit, according to British news reports today.

The PCC believes that tweets can in effect be part of a “newspaper’s editorial product”, writings that its code of practice would otherwise cover if the same text appeared in print or on a newspaper website, The (London) Times reported.

A change in the code would circumvent a loophole that, in theory, means that there is no means of redress via the PCC if somebody wanted to complain about an alleged inaccuracy in a statement that was tweeted. Last year the PCC found that it was unable to rule in a complaint made against tweets published by the Brighton Argus.

The PCC’s intentions emerged after consultative proposals unveiled by the Lord Chief Justice in February that the media – but not the public – should be allowed to tweet live, text or email from court subject to certain safeguards.

Lord Judge has proposed the move because of the “immense public interest” in being able to know the details of what takes place in the courts.

Journalists have already reported on high-profile cases from courtrooms, for instance in the extradition hearing of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“Technology has developed which removes the need to leave the courtroom to file copy,” says the consultation document, citing wireless laptops and smartphones.

The PCC plans to distinguish between journalists’ public and private tweets. Any Twitter feed that has the name of the newspaper and is clearly an official feed – such as @TimesNewsdesk or @thesun_bizarre – will almost certainly be regulated.

However, TheJournal.ie reported that a spokesman for the Press Council of Ireland said that the issue of regulating Twitter feeds of Irish newspapers and journalists “had not come up”.

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