Footballer obtains Twitter disclosure order
A footballer involved in proceedings against the Sun newspaper and former big brother star Imogen Thomas has obtained a disclosure order against social networking website Twitter.
That order seeks the disclosure of the identities of Twitter users who published confidential information.
The footballer, identified only as CTB, lodged papers at the High Court.
The information is sought within seven days or the appropriate time required in California, where Twitter is based.
Lawyers at Schillings who represent CTB have issued a statement clarifying the action it has taken.
It said it was not suing Twitter but had made an application "to obtain limited information concerning the unlawful use of Twitter by a small number of individuals who may have breached a court order".
Twitter has refused to comment on the matter.
There are precedents for legal action to find out the names of individuals behind some Twitter accounts.
Once again Twitter finds itself centre stage in the debate over privacy.
Two weeks ago, one Twitter follower made a concerted attempt to challenge the law by pulling together, in a short burst of tweets, the names of celebrities thought to have taken out gagging orders.
Jemima Khan poured petrol on the flames by tweeting a denial, giving broadcasters and newspapers a legitimate peg to run the story.
Websites such as Twitter have put a huge strain on the ability of the courts to enforce gagging orders and it has been widely assumed there is no legal redress against them.
The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this week that digital media had made an ass of the law and it was hard to enforce injunctions against Twitter because it was incorporated in the United States.
Now it seems the law is about to be tested.
Twitter has been resisting attempts by the US government to subpoena information on a number of users in relation to the Wikileaks affair.
Media lawyer Nick Lockett said the legal action against Twitter may not have much effect.
"What will have to be established is that Twitter was subject to the jurisdiction of the court," he said. While UK courts claim worldwide jurisdiction this has often proved hard to enforce.
In the case of the US, said Mr Lockett, the situation was complicated by the Communications Decency Act which grants immunity from prosecution for providers of "interactive computer services" under certain circumstances.
Lawyers acting for CTB may struggle to prove that Twitter does not deserve this immunity, said Mr Lockett.