Twitter and the Rule of Law

The rule of law requires that laws be widely known.

Few would dispute that Twitter can be quite useful at making things widely known.

I have been preoccupied with this idea for a little while now. Last month I wrote a piece on it for publication on Slaw (watch for it on 16 April 2012). The explosion of Twitter activity surrounding the Ontario Court of Appeal release today in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2012 ONCA 186 confirms my belief that Twitter provides an excellent outlet for lawyers, other legal professionals and the public itself to augment the work of Courts and governments to ensure the law is widely known.

While the nature of this case and the mass media coverage would have ensured widespread public awareness of Bedford in a world without Twitter, surely the 100+ tweets with links to the full text of the decision appearing within one hour the public release of the ruling provides important insights into the power of the tool as a means of spreading news of legal developments on a timely basis.

Rather than make the full case in support of my view now, I will seek your indulgence to hold off until the column appears on the left hand side of the page in a few weeks. In the meantime, I hope that a glance at this graphic (time stamp: Noon EST, 26 March 2012) and the continuously updated version of the same chart available through at the attached link will open your mind to the idea that Twitter can play a significant role in spreading awareness and promoting discussion of the law.

The spike relates to today’s decision. The spikes correspond to Supreme Court of Canada releases. And the CanLII spikes relate to noteworthy decisions from a variety of courts. In all cases, the momentum comes from Twitter users linking to the decisions and not from promotional attempts of the Courts.

Click on image to enlarge.

[Note: All CanLII decisions are equally accessible via both (default) and (used in conjunction with short URL) domains. The blue line for CanLII catches both as well as the occasional Twitter mention without a link.]


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