The UK Supreme Court must accept freedom of information requests via Twitter

The UK Supreme Court must accept freedom of information requests via Twitter

Yesterday’s announcement that the UK Supreme Court was launching a Twitter account to broadcast news on its latest judgements was met with generally positive reactions. However, it transpires that the court has already had to pivot its Twitter policy in light of new information it has received.

The UK Supreme Court had initially announced that it would not be able to accept official requests via its Twitter account, but a mere eight tweets in, it has now had to open up its Twitter account to accept freedom of information (FOI) requests, after a number of sources indicated that its policy contravened official guidelines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

As PublicService.co.uk notes, a spokesman for the ICO says that a failure to respond to legitimate FOI requests through Twitter – or any social media platform that it’s active on – would “certainly be grounds for complaining to us”.

“Public authorities that use Twitter and other social networking sites must recognise that, like any other communication channel, they can be used to submit freedom of information requests provided the requester includes their real name, an address for correspondence and a description of the information requested,” the ICO spokesman said. “Whilst Twitter may not be the most effective channel for submitting an FOI request, it is important that authorities are setup to handle requests received in this way.”

In addition to its public tweet above, The Supreme Court has officially said it will change its policy. “Now that the ICO guidance has been brought to our attention, we will be amending our policy accordingly,” a spokesman said. “Clearly we can’t respond comprehensively to Freedom of Information requests via Twitter, but we will take appropriate steps to publish a response as required.”

Back in December we reported that it was to be made easier for reporters to live-tweet from court rather than request permission on a case-by-case basis, but yesterday was the first time the Supreme Court itself has taken to the microblogging platform. It’s thought that the imminent verdict in the Julian Assange extradition trial could be the first major verdict broadcast through the UK Supreme Court’s Twitter account.

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