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Attorney General Dominic Grieve's warning to Twitter users: 'You may fall foul of the law in foreign countries'
TWITTER users must be wiser or find themselves facing legal action – perhaps even in foreign countries – Attorney General Dominic Grieve says.
Mr Grieve, the Beaconsfield MP, is chief legal advisor to the crown, supervising over prosecutions.
After a string of high profile cases lately, Mr Grieve, talking exclusively to the BFP, said tweeters must recognise they are effectively engaging in a public broadcast, not making private comments.
Therefore they can fall foul of the law though, said Mr Grieve, though he does not believe the Government can regulate it.
Recently, former footballer Stan Collymore revealed the enormous amounts of racial abuse he recieves on Twitter.
One such offender was taken to court and got a two year community order last month.
Another man was jailed after posting remarks about heart attack victim footballer Fabrice Muamba.
Mr Grieve said: “I think the difficulty with Twitter is that people seem to treat it as if they were having a private conversation when in fact they are broadcasting what they have to say potentially to thousands if not millions of people.”
He said while Facebook comments may be to a limited circle, Twitter is worldwide.
Some people do not to appreciate the impact their words have, he believes.
Mr Grieve said: “If you are going to engage in public broadcasting, which is what Twitter is, you've got to understand the law of the land applies to you.
“Not just the law of the land, but potentially you may fall foul of the law in foreign countries as well.
“I think there certainly needs to be greater public awareness.”
Asked if the Government needs to intervene or issue guidelines to the public, he said: “Whilst the Government may try to educate people or facilitate some information this isn't an area amenable to regulation.
“My personal view is that it will only stop when people grow in wisdom. That's only likely happen when some of them notice other people doing have got into an awful lot of trouble.”
He said cases such as that of Talksport presenter Mr Collymore and footballer Muamba will serve as serious warnings to Twitter users.
“I think that amply demonstrates that there are serious consequences for people who behave in that way,” Mr Grieve said.
Mr Collymore, who has nearly 250,000 followers, recently tweeted: “Some people believe freedom of speech means you can say anything to anyone. You can't. Laws of the land regarding hate speech is quite clear.”
Mr Grieve believes this again comes down to a failure to realise the consequences – and perpetrators face “a very rude awakening”.