80 Justice Wide Openanonymously publishing inappropriate tweets during a trial, conduct which wasfound to be
likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or theadministration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute
Iargue that the Bar Code of Conduct and the Legal Services Act 2007
also placelawyers under a professional obligation to increase public understanding of law through, for example, activities such as blogging.
I do not think blogs can or should be regulated by a domestic system of regulation, for the following reasons:1.
It is unworkable. Practically, it would be impossible to regulate all blogging.Hundreds of thousands of blogs are set up
each day, let alone posts published,and the term is so elastic that the task would be simply too large andamorphous for any regulator to manage. Even if only popular blogs weretargeted, say those over a certain number of hits, what is to stop an individual blogger simply setting up a new blog in order to avoid regulation?2.
The current system already works. Criminal and civil law already provides areasonable level of regulation. Bloggers, whether their websites are read by one or one million people, are subject to financial penalties for libel or quasi-criminal sanctions if they commit a contempt of court. See, for example, thecase of Elizabeth Watson (below), who was sentenced to nine monthsimprisonment (later suspended) for breaching a court order throughinformation published on her personal website. Additionally, Justice Peart hassaid in relation to an Irish case involving the
Rate-your-solicitor.com’ websitethat ‘The civil remedies currently available have recently been demonstratedto be an inadequate means of prevention and redress’.
Self-regulation already exists. Blogging specifically and social mediapublishing more generally (notably Twitter) is to a large extent self-regulating. As lawyer and journalist David Allen Green put it in a recent blog post:
Regulation is just not about formal ‘black-letter codes’ with sanctions andenforcement agencies. Regulation also means simply that things are done better than they otherwise would be: for example, when one ‘regulates one’sown conduct’. Bloggers and others in social media are willing and able to callout media excesses and bad journalism. The reaction is immediate and can be
The barrister was also struck off for separate offences.See <http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/complaints-and-professional-conduct/disciplinary-tribunals-and-findings/disciplinary-findings/?DisciplineID=75521> accessed May 2012
At: <http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/regulatory-requirements/changes-to-regulation/legal-services-act/> accessed May 2012
See: Adam Wagner, ‘Must lawyers blog and tweet?’ (UK Human Rights Blog, 24 May 2011)<http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/05/24/must-lawyers-blog-and-tweet/> accessed May 2012
Tim Healy, ‘Website accused of defamation is closed by judge’, (Independent.ie, 1 February 2012)<http://www.independent.ie/national-news/courts/website-accused-of-defamation-is-closed-by- judge-3005716.html> accessed May 2012