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Privacy law: South Tyneside council forces Twitter to reveal user identities

Following anonymous criticisms of councillors on Twitter, South Tyneside has won a court case that will force the social networking site to reveal the identities of some of their users.

The council were so determined to discover the identity of the person who called themselves 'Mr Monkey' that they went to the US courts, using British taxpayers' money.

South Tyneside council claimed that three of their councillors had "false and defamatory" statements published about them.

They asked the Californian court to force Twitter to reveal the account holder's name, address, email address and telephone number.

A spokesman for the council said: "The council has a duty of care to protect its employees and as this blog contains damaging claims about council officers, legal action is being taken to identify those responsible."

The Taxpayers' Alliance has criticised the council's actions, pointing out the tens of thousands of pounds it has cost to the public purse.

They said: "At a time when South Tyneside Council needs to reduce spending and prioritise to meet the needs of residents, it seems simply irresponsible to be spending money in the Californian court."

The success of this court case may have widespread implications for future, and current, privacy law cases. Currently, footballer Ryan Giggs' lawyers want to know the identity of the user who breached his injunction by revealing his affair with model Imogen Thomas.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who spoke about the Giggs injunction in Parliament, said: "It may take some time and cause some constitutional problems, but if Ryan Giggs continues to try to obtain details of Twitter users he is likely to win."

Related links:
Read more on this story (Daily Mail)
Can you write whatever you like online? (FindLaw)
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