Social media legal warning to be issued by government

The recent spate of comments posted to Facebook and Twitter that have been in contempt of court has prompted the government to issue a legal warning to users.

The government's chief legal advisor, Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, will send the advisory notes warning members of the public that commenting on court cases and revealing the names of suspects could have legal ramifications for those posting.

"Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post," Grieve said.

"This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system. In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk.

"That is no longer the case and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media. This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media - quite the opposite in fact, it's designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way."

The advisories will be posted to the Attorney General's Office's (AGO) official Twitter account, as well as the AGO section of the gov.uk website.

"I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online," Grieves said.

"This change also brings more openness to Government's dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say."