Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter 420


In what we think is a world first, the Lord Advocate of Scotland is claiming in the contempt of court case against me that I am legally responsible for the content of replies to my tweets.

The claim is founded on an argument that when you tweet, there is a menu which enables you to hide replies. If you do not hide a reply, you are therefore the publisher of that reply. As the Lord Advocate is putting it:

2. That the Twitter account under profile name @CraigMurrayOrg is operated by the Respondent. When the user of such an account publishes a post on Twitter, there is an option for readers to post publicly available comments in relation to each post and to reply to other readers’ comments. Replies to original posts will appear on the timeline of the author of the original post and on the timeline of the author of the reply. The user of the account who published the original cannot delete comments by others but, since November 2019, has the option to hide replies to their original post.

Note this is a very different argument to the accepted principle that if you publish a defamatory or otherwise illegal tweet, you bear a responsibility for people retweeting or passing on the information.

What the Lord Advocate is saying is that you can post a perfectly legal tweet, but you are responsible for any illegal replies. So if you post “Joe’s Fish and Chips are Great”, and somebody replies “But old Joe is a paedophile”, you become the publisher of the reply and liable in law for it (presumably unless you hide it, but that has not been stated in terms). The Lord Advocate is arguing that the reason that this has not previously been the law is that it is a new situation, with the “hide reply” option only being added in November 2019.

The reason this argument is being made is that the Crown is struggling to prove I published anything illegal myself, but believes a reply to one of my tweets is more obviously illegal.

The situation on Twitter is very different to a blog or media website. This website is mine. It is registered to me, I am the publisher and I accept responsibility for its content. Even there, however, the law on comments is much more nuanced than people realise and I am not generally liable for comments unless there was something in the content of my original post that was illegal or encouraged illegality, given that reasonable arrangements for moderation are in place.

But neither you nor I nor any other user is the publisher of Twitter. There is no sensible view in which you are the publisher of replies to your tweets. Twitter is the publisher of tweets and users are responsible for what they tweet.

The Lord Advocate’s approach would have a massive chilling effect on Twitter and fundamentally change its nature. When you tweet there is an option to limit who can reply. People would be loathe to allow replies at all if they were liable in law for what other people might say. Nobody wants to have to be constantly checking replies to their tweets, including to old tweets, in case somebody – who may be somebody you never heard of – tweeted something illegal.

For good or ill, Twitter has become a major medium of social and political debate. That dialogue would be entirely changed if replies are routinely turned off. What troubles me is that, in stretching for a way to convict me, the Lord Advocate appears completely oblivious to the very wide consequences of this argument for free speech. The Lord Advocate is of course not only Scotland’s chief prosecutor, he is also a member of the Scottish Government, appointed by the First Minister.

I cannot help but put this together with the Hate Crime Bill, which was condemned as an attack on free speech by every reputable body you can possibly imagine, and conclude that Scottish Government has no concern whatsoever for the concept of freedom of speech. It simply does not feature in their internal thinking, and is of no concern unless hammered upon them from outside.

The doctrine that Twitter users are the legal publishers of replies to their tweets has massive implications were it to succeed in court. That it should be recklessly resorted to as part of this vindictive attack on me, shows how deep down the rabbit hole we are going.

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420 thoughts on “Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter

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  • Tatyana

    Looks like your state wants you to watch on other people and report their misdoings.
    Congratulations, Mr. Murray, your state has just confirmirmed you’re not a spy, nor a ruling-party-obidient-extra-loyal, but just an ordinary citizen minding your own life.

  • Squeeth

    “in stretching for a way to convict me, the Lord Advocate appears completely oblivious to the very wide consequences of this argument for free speech.”

    Don’t be naïve Craig, these people aren’t ignorami; your persecution is an ideal opportunity to create a precedent.

  • Bayleaf

    An alternative interpretation is that they’re just throwing any old shit at you in an attempt to grind you down and deplete your funds. From their perspective, it costs little or nothing to ramp up the case with highly dubious (and potentially vexatious) accusations of this kind, which can be withdrawn whenever they wish. You, on the other hand, don’t know their true intentions, so must take the accusations seriously and devote time and cash in dealing with them.

  • Mary Jean Naylor

    As I see it, the only person responsible is the one who wrote it. The person who received it is a victim, also. IMO this is a form of victim blaming as well as making free speech pretty scary – in other words, a move towards censorship but shifting the burden to the shoulders of the victim.

    • Eoin

      Indeed, it’s not a huge step to blame a woman’s choice of clothing or state of inebriation for being sexually assaulted.

  • Geoff Reynolds

    …………………..If i were to tweet that the Lord Advocate was a complete prat that was part of the cabal to fix you up because the case they have against you is so flimsy, would you be responsible for my opinion, Craig?

    If somebody wishes to express whatever they think, the buck stops with them and you are completely blame free……………

    Opinions are like arsehole’s, everybody has one!

    Except in your case, Craig, you are daring to challenge those who tamper with war logs, sex up weapons of mass destruction and deny that rendition and torture exist in the whiter than white UK.

    • Geoff Reynolds

      ……………Newspapers and some parts of the internet use a series of thumbs up or thumbs down symbols for the readers to make it known if they agree or disagree with what is written……………

      If somebody receives a host of thumbs ups and a tiny amount of thumbs downs does the onus fall on the person who submitted it to let it stand or delete it?

      The answer is obvious, what one person regards as defamatory will be heralded by another and always will be the case.

      Are we still living in a free country or has our government of occupation removed the right to peaceful assembly and open publishing?

  • Ross Zografov

    This Lord advocate is obviously from the neo liberal and western neo orthodox club. These people have been becoming more and more emboldened since socialism in europe waved goodbye. What they still fear though is the come back of a new road to communism. Hence, just as always, their arguments are disturbing mess of nonsense. If courts chose to accept such nonsense, these courts themselves become illegitimate, sooner or later, in the public sphere. Many of us know how these governments dismiss the public but this cannot go forever!

  • lysias

    You wouldn’t have to know who the complainers are. Just name eveyone who might possibly be a complainer, probably in separate posts for each possible complainer.

  • A2

    Should that succeed, and set a precedent, my, what a tool to be used maliciously by whomever. There would not even be the need to identify the person who tweeted a reply in order to Damn the original poster.

    To your advantage, such a judgement (in the unlikely event it succeed) would also bring down twitter and most likely all other social media platforms, this attack brings fb, google et all firmly into the camp of those in who’s interest it is to defend you. Their pockets are deeper than the Lord Advocate of Scotland’s. It’s true that these companies may not always be on the right side of truth and Justice or care what happens to you, but you can be sure if their business is threatened by legal action what side they will be on.

    Do not be shy in seeking their help.

    • bj

      I wouldn’t be so sure.
      These corporations blithely “will work with the government”.
      Maybe the said gentleman and some high up Twitter official have already golfed together.

    • amanfromMars

      And the beat goes on, Dr Slop

      amanfromMars 1 Mon 12 Oct 05:35 [2010120535] ….. being disagreeable on https://forums.theregister.com/forum/1/2020/10/11/international_statementon_end_to_end_encryption_and_public_safety/

      All for one, one for all ……. if you have nothing to hide?

      Some opinions and calls for prosecution in some instances which are secured against wilful and wanton persecution and thought reasonably safe against crazy misinterpretation may be clearly demented, and the result of a debilitating neurological disease, rather than simply flirting around in the company of evil. To imagine there being no backdoor access to all encrypted systems, both elite and common, politically correct and incorrect, in favour of a remotely decided subjective limited access to a select few which are threatening just a relatively small number of status quo stabilities, is always going to struggle to be thought wise and perfectly acceptable rather than exposed as being liable and immediately an object subjected to rampant abuse and self-serving criminal and ethical misuse. …… for such is the obscene nature of the beast concocting the scene.

      And such prosecutions and persecutions with demented solutions are not confined to encrypted services. Plain common free speech in the questions one asks, and in the answers in replies from others way beyond one’s command and control, are also targets for pernicious attack in a mad manic and panic endemic world, and here be a current, present 0day sub-prime example of that particular abomination? …….. Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter

      All your thoughts belong to us ‽ …… In your wet dreams maybe, but in any real world situation, no way, Jose. Capiche, Kemo Sabe?

      Anyone who says there is not an all out cyber war presently raging against perverted sources and corrupted forces is not paying attention, and highly vulnerable to suffering collateral damage. Ignorance in this case is not blissful.

  • Wally Jumblatt

    So, let’s say I book a hall, organise some speakers, and hold an event for the public.
    From the audience, a nutter says something illegal before I can stop him / her. Maybe I even suggest the illegality and offer the speaker the opportunity to withdraw the remark, which he declined. Am I responsible?

  • Anonish

    As useful as the platform is for reaching people, I’d strongly recommend dropping it as a platform. Not only is it generally horrible for meaningful discussion with its character limits and favouring of kneejerk populist reactions, there’s a worrying trend of legal action. People have been sued for libel for even retweeting a ‘defamatory’ article with the argument that it’s tantamount to publishing.

    It’s certainly no place for dissidents. Nor is Facebook.

  • Cynicus

    You have many genuine worries, brave Craig. But do not add this absurd and astonishing intervention by Sturgeon’s Lord Advocate to them.

    This time, this Woolfe man is baying at the moon.

  • Goose

    Reminded of that famous quote from late rapper and activist, Tupac Shakur, after some claimed rap music was driving gang violence:

    “The only way I’ve been practicing my whole life, to live my life is to be responsible for what I do. I don’t know how to be responsible for what every black male did, I don’t know”

  • Rookiescot

    Would this ruling just be valid for twitter or would publications such as The Scotsman be liable for the public’s comments on its news articles?
    That would open a whole can of worms for unionists.

  • 6033624

    From what you say it sounds entirely unreasonable to expect that anyone with a Twitter account would be able to track all the replies to all of their original posts to check that they were legal and proper. When you then move to people, like yourself, in the public eye you have tenfold more replies than otherwise. It MIGHT be possible for a politician or someone else with a staff to monitor this but this isn’t how Twitter operates, it is set up for individual use.

    Are they REALLY willing to set a precedent that could see almost ANYONE be prosecuted for what someone else says? It doesn’t seem to meet the test of ‘reasonableness’ in any case. Hopefully this grasping at straws is an indication that the prosecution is on it’s last legs.

  • Christopher Barclay

    And at the same time Twitter appears not to be legally responsible for any abusive tweets sent by Twitter users.

  • Tatyana

    Actually, if Mr. Murray hid that comment, then by doing so he would confirm the correctness of the guess. This would mean that Mr. Murray had disclosed the identity of the complainant to at least one person, namely the author of the hidden comment. And that would be in direct violation of the court order.
    I do not even mention that the author of the hidden commentary could start complaining about the actions of Mr. Murray, thereby revealing the identity of the complainant to an even larger circle of people.
    Thus, ignoring the comment was the best tactic and is fully in line with the court order that Mr. Murray must comply with.

  • Willie

    Chilling stuff making individuals vicariously responsible for the actions of others. And here was me thinking back to my student days and thinking “ actus non facit reum nisi mens sit

    But legalities aside, for in Scotland they are now but a discredited sham, what might be more effective is the chilling effect that the Lord Advocate’s attempts to criminalise individuals vicariously might have on the Twitter business model.

    Twitter like all of these social media platforms relies on patrons using the forum. Stop that and the corporate Twitter become nought. And so, if people are chilled into not being able to comment, then the business model fails.

    Twitter vs the Little Lord Advocate of Scotland. I hope so.

    And yes, I think he has shown himself to be nothing less than a political prostitute mendaciously pursuing legal argument like a hired mobster thug.

  • Wikikettle

    I have a gut feeling that as things get desperate for these cretins, and their floundering ship is going under, one of them will jump ship and spill the beans. The truth always comes out, usually from the enemy camp.

  • Willie

    Tatanya @ 05.37

    It is not just high time that someone published a list of the alphabet women.

    Protecting vulnerable complainants is one thing but when the complainants one and all have their claims rejected and the accused exonerated, this sham should not be allowed to continue.i

    Moreover, the case against Craig Murray is showing the prosecution in Scotland to be nothing less than vicious political thuggery, and we tamper with a fair and equitable prosecution service, and indeed police force too, at our very peril.

    • Tatyana

      I see that Mr. Murray was not a side in the Salmond case. Therefore, his behavior is limited only by a court order not to disclose the identities.
      Mr. Murray did not disclose it. Mr. Murray did not highlight in any way the identifying comments from other people. Mr. Murray did not emphasise the correct identifying comments among incorrect comments. All he did was just a journalistic coverage.
      How can they make him responsible? Rhetorical question, of course, I understand that the approach is the same as for the Assange case. They can’t accuse of publishing, as it’s not a crime, so they try to accuse of provoking the illegal handling of information.

  • Geoff Reynolds

    …………..so wee Nicola is now giving interviews to Sky News in an attempt to give creedence to her jumble of lies as she attempts to put more of Scotland into Stasi mode.

    The Lord Advocate must have backache having wee jimmy Krankie;s cold hands up the back of his robes of office as she tries to manipulate his every movement.

    Movement being the key word as he is completely full of shit!

  • iain

    People should give the monkey (Mr Wolffe) a break. Do they really believe he is acting independently of the organ grinder?

  • Alisdair+Mc

    So what happens when your are sleeping in your bed and someone posts an “illegal” comment? Are you expected to leap out of bed and delete the comment? How many seconds are you allowed to do this? Perhaps the LA should answer that. Truly 1984, Airstrip one!!

  • Ali Brown

    Wow, I cannot see how this could be legally argued as your responsibility and would open up a massive can of worms if it set a precedent

  • Father O'Blivion

    Is exceptionalist, English nationalism a byproduct of Brexitmania, or is Brexitmania an expression of English nationalism? I guess we’re about to find out.
    As a somewhat obscure clue, YouGov ask “is attaining net zero carbon emissions important?”.
    Scotland 75% yes. England & Wales (apologies, YouGov include Wales as English “region”) 57% yes. Northern Ireland 71% yes.
    Very Trumpian. Very worrying.

    • Bayard

      Are we supposed to find out what Trump thinks on every subject and automatically think the other way?

      • RogerDodger

        That’s the sort of thinking that leads to the Democrats attacking Trump from the right on foreign policy and agitating for yet more illegal wars.

        • pretzelattack

          it’s not thinking that leads democrats to do that, though, they’ve been doing that for decades. kennedy did it to nixon in 1960 with the fake missle gap. currently they are doing it again, but it isn’t a campaign tactic, it’s a long standing policy of supporting warmongering (along with the gop, of course).

    • N_

      The answer to the opening question is no. And the Scottish analogue to Trump, Orban, Brexit, and white power is the Scottish National Partei and its “movement”, many of whose rabid members think Braveheart was a documentary. Is the specific flavour of xenophobia a manifestation of Calvinism and its doctrine of “absolute depravity”? Those investigating that question should take a look at the Broederbond. It is insane at a Trumpian level to be anti-Brexit and pro Scottish independence.

      • Cubby

        N

        Back with your nasty comments again – “many of whose rabid members think Braveheart was a documentary ” – but far from original. No imagination by N for Numpty is it.

        You are a bit of a parody of yourself N. Does anyone take you seriously. Are you upset because Britnat Labour in Scotland has only one MP and he is just a Tory anyway?

      • Brianfujisan

        ” to be anti-Brexit and pro Scottish independence.”

        Well That’s me

        P.s Grow Up…. Fuck the Establishment..That Chains Scotland – But Not For much longer. Peace from Scotland to ye..

      • Cubby

        N

        13%

        British Nationalist Labour in Scotland now polling at 13%. Is that what is making you so angry? Or is it the fact that Labour voters in Scotland actually rate Surgeon higher than their own leader Leonard. Now I bet that doesn’t happen very often.

        Labour is now being chased by the Scottish Greens. How long before the Greens overtake Labour ?

        N keep sucking on your lemons because it is only going to get worse.

      • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

        The writer makes a decent living massaging the sensibilities of the South Dublin and US East Coast elites, but always worth reading.

        • Ian

          Haha, O’Toole is a superb writer but you can’t resist patronising him with your holier-than-thou snooty superiority complex.

        • frankywiggles

          He has reaffirmed who he is and what he stands for with his complete silence on Julian Assange.

    • Charly

      Net zero =

      no steel, no concrete, no plastic, no wind turbines, no solar voltaic, no transport ( no tyres, no brakes…)

      etc. etc…

      your numbers show the effectiveness of the brainwashing – more than half everywhere.

      • FlakBlag

        I’d love if that was true, but it seems “Net zero” is a specific form of green-washing accounting fraud.

        Brainwashing, hmmm. Are you one of those people who think that the people who run the world using tools such as centralization, diversion and the promotion of needless over-consumption have created a hoax which the obvious reaction to is localization, realism and a radical reduction in consumption?

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Perhaps you should ask people what they are prepared to sacrifice to achieve it?

      Always easy to get a poll like that when people have no clue about the implications of what they are saying….

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