Pressure to reveal the identities of celebrities protected by British legal injunctions has intensified after Twitter accounts began circulating the names of footballers and performers alleged to have taken out gagging orders.
The alleged identities of those who resorted to the courts to protect reputations or privacy were spilled out in a public challenge to the restrictions imposed on reporting and broadcasting.
Several Twitter tags led to a sequence of exchanges that delighted in claiming to show that the high court could not silence the more rebellious reaches of social media sites. But later it appeared that the names of the celebrities allegedly involved were removed from one Twitter account.
The onslaught follows attempts last week to rewrite the Wikipedia entries of several individuals said to have obtained superinjunctions.
In the Commons, two MPs, the Liberal Democrat John Hemmings and the Conservative Matthew Offord, have tried to use parliamentary privilege to question the use of injunctions.
Last week Offord claimed that an MP had resorted to the high court for such a purpose. A “superinjunction” technically refers only to those court orders that specifically ban any mention of the fact that an order has been obtained.
More recently the courts have tended to grant anonymised orders that prevent virtually every other aspect of any restricted subject from being reported.
Among those tweeting on the subject was Jemima Khan, who denied that any of the Twitter reports relating to her were true.
There are an increasing number of calls, some reluctant, for parliament to draft a privacy law to set clear guidelines for the courts about where the line should be drawn.
Opponents warn that each case has particular circumstances such that only a judge in court can make the fine distinction on what can be allowed into the public domain or deserves protection.
Later this month a committee chaired by the master of the rolls, Lord Neuberger, will report on the issue of superinjunctions. It is expected to make recommendations for procedural changes but not to call for new legislation.
A spokesman for Twitter told the Guardian: “There are tweets that we do remove, such as illegal tweets and spam. However, we make efforts to keep these exceptions narrow so they may serve to prove a broader and more important rule – we strive not to remove tweets on the basis of their content.”
Later this week, the European court of human rights will publish its findings on what may become a landmark judgment in privacy, the case of the formula one boss Max Mosley. He is seeking a ruling that would require advance notice from the media of any report that deals with any aspect of an individual’s privacy. If the court finds in his favour it will change the legal landscape.
This article originally appeared in The Guardian.