Could an Inappropriate Tweet Lead to Jail Time? The Legal Risks Under International Privacy Laws

If you use Twitter and other social media websites, you have likely seen some questionable content pass through your feed. As highlighted by recent arrests in the United Kingdom, social media users may actually be breaking online privacy laws in some circumstances.

The Twitter scandal is linked to a rape case against British football star Ched Evans. He was recently sentenced to five years in jail for raping a 19-year-old woman. According to the judge the woman was “extremely intoxicated” and “in no condition to have sexual intercourse” at the time of the alleged encounter.

Two days after Evans was sentenced to prison, the rape victim was publicly named on Twitter. As reported by ZDNet, due to the hashtag #justiceforched, she was subject to significant online abuse by Evans’ supporters and her name even became a trending topic on the social media site.

UK law grants lifelong anonymity for rape victims and anyone who publishes a victim’s identity is subject to a fine and possible criminal proceedings. In this case, the police are aggressively pursuing those who shared the victim’s name online.

Following the reports, a representative of the North Wales Police stated:

“As and when criminal offences are identified on such websites they will be dealt with robustly and arrest made if appropriate and the offenders will be brought to justice. We find this to be profoundly disturbing and are determined to seek out those responsible.”

“I would advise people who post such status and tweets to consider the implications of their action and those who add comments to appreciate that they may be condoning such behaviour and contributing to the continued trauma upon this young woman.“

Several Twitter users have already been arrested and Evans’ teammates Connor Brown was suspended by the team after he allegedly made offensive comments about the victim on Twitter.

This case highlights that companies and individuals must always be mindful of the content posted on social media. In addition to the potential harm caused to your reputation by an inappropriate remark, you may also be held liable under civil or criminal privacy laws.

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