Social Media

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

If he will make an assessment of the effect of social media on the administration of justice.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

The response to the call for evidence on the impact of social media on the administration of justice was published on 5 March this year. We concluded that, whereas at present social media are not having a widespread impact on the trial process, this may not remain the case if the issues identified are not addressed. The Government are responding in a number of ways, including a new gov.uk webpage to support the public in understanding how they can responsibly comment on criminal trials in social media.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Do users, who appear to have an opinion on everything, have any idea what the law actually is?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I do sometimes wonder. It should be as plain as a pikestaff to anyone that the criminal trial process has to have integrity and be based on the evidence heard in court. That is why the new contempt online webpage sets out clear and accessible information for the public on what might be considered contempt. I reassure my right hon. Friend that the law officers take robust action where there is evidence of contempt.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

Will the Solicitor General set out what work he is doing with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other online platforms, which is mainly where people take the law into their own hands and assume that they know what they are talking about when they refer to cases and other issues?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will be happy to know that I have set up a special point of contact with each of those social media companies so that if an issue is raised with my office an official can immediately contact a named person to ensure as rapid as possible a takedown of the offending material.