Hashtag #DoubleStandards - Twitter on Trial

Presented in a university lecture hall, Hashtag Double Standards: Twitter on Trial is a talk given by Paul Motion, a solicitor since 1984 with an interest in social media. He's not, as he iterates to us, providing legal advice here - though as it turns out, given the rapidity with which one misjudged tweet might result in prosecution, some of what he says might turn out to be personally useful to any prolific tweeter in the audience. What Motion is here for is a discussion, and the ease with which the talk opens up into just that is a testimony to him. Motion clearly has expertise; he is calm, authoritative and forthright in his views. But he's not intimidating: we believe him when he says that this lecture is about not 'lecturing' us.

Motion's argument - eloquently presented and convincingly illustrated - is that often judges apply laws to Twitter that betray a lack of understanding of social media. His main gripe, it emerges, is with the repeated use of 'Section 127'. This, Motion emphasizes, was created in 1935 to monitor the use of a publicly-funded service providing one-to-one communication: the telephone. It's not appropriate to a public forum like Twitter or Facebook, Motion insists. For people such as Daniel Thomas - who jokingly tweeted that Tom Daley could 'bum' his boyfriend as consolation for fourth place - sensible rationale eventually prevailed: The charges were dropped. Others, Motion hints, have not been so lucky.

Such a discussion might seem fairly out of context at the Fringe and while it admittedly isn't fringe-central, the issue over the criminality of sick jokes is, as Motion points out, certainly relevant at a festival in which comedians such as Kunt and the Gang are not only given a public platform, but applauded. When you compare this to Matthew Wood, who, in October 2012, was jailed for 12 weeks because he had tweeted rude jokes about Madeleine McCann and April Jones (Section 127 in full swing), the #doublestandard is not hard to see.

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Performances

The Blurb

Authorities can’t work out which tweets will get you a laugh and which will get you directly to jail without passing Go. Social media law expert Paul Motion tries to make sense of things.

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