Lord Justice Leveson has suggested that his on-going inquiry into the conduct and ethics of the British press is unlikely to end up making the same recommendations for social media sites as it will for either printed or online newspapers and magazines.
Lord Leveson said that he viewed social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter merely as host sites for conversations between private individuals, rather than as platforms for news.
‘I think’, Leveson said, ‘that I might see there is a distinction between Facebook, where one person is communicating with their friends, or Twitter, and organisations that are in the business of selling themselves with reference to news or information.’
Leveson likened the material generated on social media sites to ‘pub chatter’; arguing that it was therefore distinguishable in terms of accountability from news reporting –
‘that which the state…all of us…has an interest in seeing as a level playing field’
It is not yet certain what, if any, regulations will be recommended for the UK printed and online press by the Leveson inquiry; but Lord Leveson’s stated opinion that social media should not be treated in the same way as newspapers or magazines may well be welcomed by representatives of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in the light of submissions to the inquiry calling for greater control of the internet.
Among these latter submissions has been one from Harry Potter author JK Rowling, expressing concern that photographs of her children might currently be available on the internet without her approval.