The man chairing the current enquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press has spoken out to indicate that online social networks should be treated differently to other news outlets under any new press regulatory regime.
Lord Justice Leveson said yesterday that he believed that there was a difference between an online version of a newspaper or magazine, and a social-media website which hosts conversations between individuals.
The Leveson Enquiry has heard evidence from across a broad spectrum of the media as well as victims of phone hacking conducted by the News of the World, such as the parents of murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler, and celebrities including Hugh Grant and comedian Steve Coogan.
Mr Leveson has stressed on several occasions that he has not drawn any firm conclusions about the future of press regulation.
However, speaking on the subject of social-media sites he was fairly unequivocal.
"I think that I might see there is a distinction between Facebook, where one person is communicating with their friends, or Twitter, and organisations that are in the business of selling themselves with reference to news or information," he said.
"That is the difference between the pub chatter, to take the analogy that was mentioned before, and that which... all of us has an interest in seeing as a level playing field," he added.
One of the central questions posed by the review is how to regulate content on the internet which may breach libel and privacy laws. The enquiry has heard evidence from author JK Rowling who feared that unauthorised photographs of her children were circulating on the internet and said she was powerless to retrieve them.
Former Formula One boss Max Moseley described how he had paid out nearly £500,000 to force an apology from the News of the World for falsely accusing him of conducting a Nazi-themed group sex session. He has also commenced litigation in 22 countries to have libellous content about him removed from the internet, as well as suing Google in France and Germany for listing libellous content in its search results.
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