Tweeting Is Not Private – Yet Another Ruling

The UK Press Complaints Commission, a non-governmental, self-regulatory body fielding complaints about the content of British newspapers, ruled today that material published on Twitter is not private and did not violate the editorial code of practice. The Daily Mail republished some of Sarah Baskerville’s tweets. She is employed by the Department of Transport and as a civil servant is bound not to “call into doubt the impartiality of the civil service,” which, the Daily Mail felt, some of her tweets did.

From the adjudication:

The article referred to the fact that the complainant had in her tweets: described the leader of a course she was doing (as part of her job) as “mental”; said that she was “struggling with a wine-induced hangover” at work; and, again at work, told how she was “feeling rather tired – would much prefer going home”. In addition, the article pointed to a number of tweets that were political in nature: a complaining reference to a Conservative MP who was a prominent critic of Whitehall waste; a re-tweet of a Labour MP’s attack on government “spin”…

The Commission found that the material was open to public view—Ms Baskerville had 700 followers and had not (then) “locked down” her account—and that the quoted material related to her work as a civil servant and was used as part of a debate about what use public servants should make of social media.

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone needs a reminder that when you tweet you cast your crumbs upon the waters. But if they do, this might serve as one.


  1. …and those waters could be deep, very deep water, in Ms. Baskerville’s case. It never ceases to amaze me that people feel the need to share their personal and intimate and frankly, often inappropriate thoughts and feelings. People, some things are better left unsaid. In the words of John Wayne: “Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much.”

  2. or as Robert Newton Peck said in ‘A Day No Pigs Would Die’:

    Never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut.