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Will Twitter’s Dublin Headquarters Open It Up To Libel Lawsuits?

If you check out Twitter’s recent job openings, you’ll see quite a few international openings posted. Everything seems hunky dory, right?

Well, Twitter’s European headquarters in Dublin may come with a cost they didn’t expect.

We wonder if they can hear the water rushing toward them?

Guardian News spoke to Paul Tweed, a Belfast-based libel expert. He warns that Twitter’s decision to set up shop in Dublin exposes it to EU defamation and privacy laws and “will also enable lawyers to sue the companies on behalf of clients abused by anonymous bloggers and tweeters.”

He added that his law firm, Johnsons, has recently sent warning letters and emails to individual bloggers and tweeters who have abused journalists and politicians. Johnsons has also sent warnings to the relevant internet servers providers.

“We will send a ‘take down’ notice to either Google, Facebook or Twitter and we get various responses. Two or three years ago our demands for ‘take down’ notices were largely ignored by the likes of Google who are based in Seattle and could quote us back the American constitution,” Tweed said.

“In those days we used to tell our clients ‘look, even if we get a judgment we are not going to be able to enforce it’. Because US courts would not enforce them and our clients basically had to turn the other cheek.

“Now the whole landscape has changed. The massive game-changer is that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google have established European headquarters in Dublin and in doing that they have subjected themselves not only to Irish defamation and privacy laws but also those EU laws on libel and privacy. That means they are potentially a target because they are providing anonymous abusers on line with a platform.”

So far we’ve mostly seen cases going after individuals, like the case of Lord McApline seeking to sue 10,000 users for libelous tweets or folks fighting tooth and nail to reveal Twitter trolls’ identities, but will that change?

Not likely. But that doesn’t mean the news is any better for Twitter – or its users. Twitter was recently sued for $50 millionfor not outing those behind anti-Semitic tweets. But if previous actions are any indication, when faced with stiff financial penalties, Twitter will relent. And that doesn’t bode well for Twitter in the long run.

Why not? It seems like big trouble for the user, not Twitter – right? Well, yes and no.

Users would ultimately be held accountable for their tweets (which is a good thing when it comes to bullies, trolls and the like), but Twitter would be the one truly suffering as it would be stuck with the administrative side of these requests – and once that floodgate is opened it will be impossible to shut.

(Wave image from Shutterstock)

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