Social media outlawed in courts: Veto protects courts’ integrity

Though it seems an unlikely prospect, should US President Donald Trump ever find himself in an Irish courtroom he would be denied his link to his Twitter constituency.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke has banned anyone other than the press or lawyers from using social media, or text messaging in any form, in Irish courtrooms.

Even if it almost always seems best not to ban any process of communication, it is appropriate in this instance, as the integrity of our justice system has been undermined by courtroom tweets designed to muddy the waters and feed the fake news monster. Cases have been misconstrued, arguments hijacked, and individual rights trampled in a way that challenges the conventions that ensure a trial is fair and reliable. Announcing the measure, the chief justice said the potential for unregulated social media to have an impact on the fairness of the trial process is a concern for the judiciary.

The laws around contempt and the use of social media in a courtroom are being considered by the Law Reform Commission, but this ban seems to serve the highest ideals, and does not impinge on the idea of free speech — it only limits what can be published from a courtroom during a trial. This seems a small price to pay to ensure that anyone, even president Trump, who finds themselves involved in a court case, is treated fairly. It is inevitable that this ban will be broken and it will be more than interesting to see how the courts respond.


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