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Facebook and Twitter may escape regulation – Leveson

Lord Justice Leveson has indicated that he does not support extending any new system of press regulation to take in internet social networking services like Facebook and Twitter.

The chairman of the inquiry into press standards said he drew a distinction between “pub chatter” between friends on such sites and organisations publishing material which “the state has an interest in seeing is conducted on a level playing field”.

His comment came yesterday as Camilla Wright, editor of celebrity gossip website Popbitch, gave evidence at the inquiry.

Ms Wright did not rule out signing up to a regulator which replaces the Press Complaints Commission – but she also warned that internet sites might choose not to join any such body and instead move their computer servers outside Britain so that they were not subject to UK laws and regulations.

Popbitch, which started in 2000 and is best known for its weekly e-mail newsletter, does not belong to the PCC and deals with complaints and legal action over its stories independently, the inquiry heard.

Referring to any new system of regulation, Ms Wright told yesterday’s hearing: “It may well prove to be that this is a very useful mechanism for us to join.  But … it would have to be something that we would look at down the line.”

Lord Justice Leveson observed: “I think that I might see there’s a distinction between Facebook, where one person is communicating with their friends … or Twitter, and organisations that are in the business of selling themselves by reference to news or information.

“That’s the difference between the pub chatter, to take the analogy that was mentioned before, and that which the state – and I don’t mean Government, I say immediately – the broad corpus of all of us has an interest in seeing is conducted on a level playing field.

“Whether that is achievable is the very centre of the inquiry.”

Lord Justice Leveson has repeatedly referred to the problem of how – if at all – internet news sites and bloggers can fit into any system of press regulation that he might propose.


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  • January 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    What a strange distinction to make, far from being pub chatter, viral social media can be seen by many more people that would see it in print.

    I can understand the frustration of the print press that they are subject to tight regulation when everyone on twitter and facebook are actively talking about the injunctions.

    I think it’s a very poor analogy.

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  • January 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    On my patch, we have been watching internet gossip pages pointing the finger at named individuals for crimes which they may (or may not) have committed. We are responsible journalists, and have looked in horror at what is being said and published to all and sundry.
    Our words have been measured, controlled and have stuck to the letter of the law.
    Had we written a fraction of what gossiping, ill-informed individuals wrote we would have faced court action.
    Regrettably, that did not stop the national media.
    The trouble with Leveson’s inquiry is that responsible journalists will be stopped from reporting even the constrained material we are currently able to produce.
    As for A and B, and Baby Z, they have to live with the tar and feathering their neighbours, strangers and anyone else who cares to say “We know it all” care to throw at them.
    The most telling comment from yesterday’s inquiry was the slip-up by M’Lud when he talked about what the state considers a level playing field. Most of our readers have never been to Lords – level playing fields here tend to have divots, couch grass and a 24 degree slope.

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