Today I am publishing the Government’s response to the call for evidence on the impact of social media on the administration of justice. The response is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/response-to-call-for-evidence-on-the-impact-of-social-media-on-the-administration-of-justice, and a copy has also been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
The focus of the call for evidence was to look at the impact of social media on the criminal justice system, with particular attention paid to the issues of active proceedings and breaches of reporting restrictions and anonymity orders.
The evidence was varied and I am grateful to everyone who contributed. We can conclude that, for the moment, social media is not having a widespread impact on the trial process. This, however, may not remain the case if the issues identified are not addressed. The response sets out a number of ways that the Government will respond to the variety of issues raised. This includes improving links with social media companies, which will enable easier removal of harmful posts, and working with cross-Government partners, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office, on the White Paper on online harms to tackle related issues. Further, I will work with my Public Legal Education Committee to raise awareness of the risks and implications of using social media to comment on criminal trials. As a part of this work, the Government have created a dedicated webpage to support public understanding of contempt of court and anonymity orders, which can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/contempt-of-court. In addition to working on guidance for the public, work is also underway to develop comprehensive guidance on contempt led by the Judicial Office. I am grateful to the judiciary for their support in understanding and dealing with this issue.
I am confident that these measures will contribute to ensuring safer use of social media in accordance with the law and will support the Government’s efforts to make the internet a safer place.