What the hell are the Met and McAlpine up to? Libel/defamation is not within the police’s remit. It’s a civil offence, not a crime – the Met has no dog in this fight.
There might conceivably be a very small proportion of tweeters who were stupid enough to have issued threats against McAlpine, though if the number is significant I’ll eat my keyboard. However, this is still not a justification for the Met to gratuitously insert itself in to what, at this moment, is a purely civil matter.
The way this SHOULD go is that McAlpine’s lawyers, if they actually have the evidence they claim to have, should pass on any threats they come across to the police. It is manifestly not the job of the police to go rummaging around, just on the off-chance, in what, right now, isn’t even a libel case – it’s just threats and bluster. Smells a bit like intimidation to me.
Were you, or I, to pitch up at New Scotland Yard with a print-out of 10,000 tweets and retweets and Say, “Hey, guys, I think there might be some threats in here, can you have a look?” we’d be shown the door in very short order, and rightly so, so why is McAlpine being treated differently, and how much taxpayer’s money will be squandered as the Met interferes in this case?
What McAlpine’s lawyers will have at the moment – or, rather, what they claim to have – is a list of 10,000 nicknames and IP addresses (the latter can change at any time, for many users, so are of limited value), plus the tweets/RTs. The only legal way forward is for McAlpine’s lawyers to arm themselves with court orders for everyone concerned, and ask Twitter to release the names of the account holders. Assuming, of course, that the names Twitter has are actually real.
Twitter, however, not being bound by UK law, can simply tell them to bugger off. If that happens they can then take their case(s) to a US court, who might, or might not, co-operate, the first amendment right to freedom of speech being all but sacred in the US, but if they did, Twitter would have to comply.
We are a very long way from that point right now. Apart from the relatively few Twitter users who tweet in their own name (and I’ll be surprised if any were dumb enough to tweet libellously), the lawyers very likely have nothing useable at the moment.
If McAlpine is so sure he can make his cases against 10,000 people, then he should get off his fat arse and set the legal wheels in motion – not encourage the Met to go on a fishing expedition.
That, or just shut the hell up.