CHARLES GRAHAM - Twitterati need law lessons

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NOW we know what former Tory Minister Lord McAlpine has got to occupy his retirement: law suits.

No fewer than 10,000 of them apparently as he fights back over his being wrongly identified as a paedophile.

Most of his targets are folk who gossiped about him on Twitter and he has my full support in gunning for them.

As journalists we are taught from the very start all about Britain’s defamation and contempt of court laws and while they are sometimes a bit of a nuisance when there is much more to a story than you are allowed to report, we also recognise the value and purposes of these legal reins.

Until now, though, unschooled millions using Twitter and other social media thought these restraints didn’t apply to them - if they gave any thought to such matters at all. Then again, why should they? You don’t get a free law course with a computer or iPod and many people are under the illusion that “free speech” means you can say what the hell you like.

But many of those folk who named Lord McAlpine are now in for a very nasty reality check as the writs start flying.

Ignorance is never a defence in the eyes of the law so their argument that they weren’t aware you couldn’t just blithely accuse someone of the vilest crimes without a shred of evidence just won’t wash.

Social media is a marvel of modern technology in many ways. But its users are going to have to learn fast that they have to abide by the same legal boundaries as us hacks.