This past Sunday, an anonymous Twitter user posted details of alleged injunctions obtained by UK celebrities in an effort to prevent the publication of revealing photographs. This type of injunction is what’s commonly known as a ‘super-injunction.’ While a standard injunction prevents the media from reporting details of a story, a super-injunction goes a step further and prevents the publication of not only the details of the story but even the existence of the injunction itself.
Historically, if a newspaper breached the terms of an injunction by publishing an article or photos, they left themselves open to being sued by the person who had obtained the injunction. Identifying the newspaper is relatively straightforward and arguably this threat of litigation is the very thing that stops newspapers from breaking the terms of an injunction.
This has all changed with the rise in social media – For example, if you’re a celebrity being wrongly tweeted about by an anonymous Tweeter in Bora Bora, who do you sue? And what about re-tweets… do you sue everyone who spread the word? Those people who are wrongly identified can possibly sue for defamation, but in reality, the damage is already done once the Tweet is out and finding and suing the Tweeter can take time and lots of money.
On the flip side, individual Tweeters also need to consider their own liability for tweeting defamatory information. There seems to be a common feeling that you can say anything on the internet…. We’re not a newspaper; we can say what we like…. Not true. With the reach of social media far exceeding the reach of your standard newspaper, the damage that can be done by posting incorrect information is enormous and Tweeters do leave themselves open to legal action.
In reality, it seems these types of injunctions may eventually become a thing of the past – with the rise of the digital age, they just won’t be worth the paper they’re written on.