McAlpine claims his lawyers have the names of 10,000 Twitterati** who tweeted or retweeted about him and the paedo allegations (1,000 tweets, 9,000 RTs). The suggestion has been made, in the press, that the plebs, to avoid prosecution, make a £100 donation to a children’s charity while celebs will be dealt with more harshly – presumably because there is more money to be screwed out of them.
**Unlikely. They might have their screen names, it’ll take court orders to get the real names for those who tweet anonymously, which is likely to be the majority.
Still no suggestion, though, of any action against the police, who were the ones, by all accounts, to release his name in this context in the first place.
So, if you tweeted, then you know you did – your call as to how you respond, but this “pay £100 to charity or else” approach smacks of coerced self-incrimination.
Personally, I didn’t tweet about McAlpine. I try to avoid libelling anybody, not just him (it is perfectly possible to be highly critical without being libellous). I don’t believe I retweeted anything, either, but therein lies a problem.
If, like me, you have a very busy timeline, as I mentioned in a previous post, it is extremely easy, when retweeting, to RT the wrong tweet.
At busy times, my timeline, and doubtless that of others, moves so fast it’s barely legible, and it’s perfectly possible, when clicking something to RT that between the intention and the click an entirely different tweet moves under your cursor. Mostly, I spot these and correct them, but if that coincides with a sudden burst of activity, it’s easy for an incorrect RT to be carried out of sight before I notice.
And if that happens to me it can happen to anybody. By the law of averages, that will have happened with some of the McAlpine RTs
So, while McAlpine might well feel that his case is cut and dried against original tweeters, for retweeters I still feel there is a need for him to prove that the RT was, in fact, deliberate, which, on a system in which the capacity for making accidental RTs is innate, is impossible.
Another thought – does this list of 10,000 people exist? If so, why aren’t “offenders” being notified, instead of having to learn from newspaper articles that they can expiate their “guilt” by making a donation to charity – a donation which would, in fact, be a tacit admission of guilt?
“We know who you are, pay up or else” is blackmail. If you know who these people are, prove it.
There are rules to this game, and “prosecution by newspaper” most certainly isn’t one of them. If McAlpine gets away with this it will set an horrendous precedent – the world and his wife will jump on the bandwagon with all manner of spurious claims against Twitterati. And, doubtless, bloggers will find themselves in the firing line too.
And, of course, if people do make donations to charity, I see nothing to stop the lawyers screaming “Gotcha!” and prosecuting anyway.
Court is the only place where guilt might be determined – telling people they have to incriminate themselves by making donations to charity bypasses that system and is, frankly, despicable.
Doubtless that would save McAlpine a shed-load of money – prosecuting 10,000 people doesn’t come cheap – but that’s not the point.
Justice is the point.