Will McAlpine’s defamatory threat have us fleeing from Facebook and Twitter?

The recent news stories regarding how the “freedom of speech” laws operate in the new social media world, particularly about Lord McAlpine’s pursuit of defamatory Tweeters, have intrigued but also perturbed me.

What is the difference between what you say within your own “group” on Twitter or Facebook, compared to what you say to your mates down the pub? Is Twitter/Facebook really a broadcast media, and do people understand that? And even if it is, are some of the statements that people have apparently made any different to those written in the left-wing or right-wing media such as the Morning Star or even Private Eye?

If these sites are found to be within the jurisdiction of media law, the implications are pretty scary and, importantly, are likely to dissuade many people from getting involved, fearing that what they say might result in them being inadvertently summoned to court.

The law clearly needs to catch up with the modern age and give some unequivocal guidance for a worried and confused public.

And all this at a time when both big business and the Government are moving to “digital by default” – using the economy as an excuse to limit services to people who are only prepared to transact online.

However, the last statistics I saw suggest that some 7.5 million people in this country still do not access the internet, by choice or otherwise, and so risk being left behind in a two-tier society.

As a marketer, I am uncomfortable with this headlong drive to move online. We should be offering customers choice – using the skills of the marketing mix to encourage customers to choose one specific channel over another (through price, service benefits etc.)… as opposed to closing off what for many is a preferred option of going about their business.

Given the Government is a monopoly supplier, its over-enthusiasm for digital doesn’t seem entirely honourable or ethical. While there are some first-class marketers in the public sector, I think they should be given permission to practice what they preach.

Meanwhile, I think I will double-check that the Secret Marketer’s anonymity remains…

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