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Sinead Ryan: Don't make a twit of yourself, it could be your last post

Rather than totally waste a precious hour of my life trying to organise car insurance over the phone, I put the four different operators (yes, really) from at least two continents and the plinky-plonky music on speakerphone, and started tweeting while they talked amongst themselves.

A cheque had or had not been received. A quote was definitely accepted, or maybe not. I might be covered. Then again, they'd have to look it up.

As my will to live began to dissipate, I went on Twitter and tweeted the ongoing efforts to my little band of loyal, if bemused followers. If I was a bit disparaging, it was out of sheer frustration.

Then a news site I follow popped up to tell me that Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has warned that tweeting, and other forms of social networking were just as prone to the laws of slander and libel as newspapers.

He told the Press Council he reckons a number of people have already been slandered by comments made on internet sites.

"Anybody who puts anything up, they have to understand it can go around the world in a few seconds to a huge number of people. Quite a number of people in public and private life have been slandered by comments made on these internet sites, some on purpose, others by mistake," he said.


Although I'm pretty sure I haven't libelled anyone (yet), some others who see Twitter as their own personal anger management solution haven't been so lucky and, with depressing inevitability, lawyers have found another way to make money with the advent of the first tweeter libel cases.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian dissed a diet drink on her page, saying it didn't work and the manufacturer was a 'liar'. She added she used another named product with success -- without revealing she is paid to endorse it. And with 2.7 million followers, a defamation suit was promptly filed by the smeared manufacturer.

She's not the only one to get into a spot of bother over their tweets, though. Brian McFadden used Twitter to attack his ex-wife Kerry Katona recently, while veteran tweeter Dan Boyle can be downright rude about his colleagues in Government. And super-tweeter Miriam O'Callaghan claims she now stops and rereads every tweet before posting it to more than 4,000 followers, after her confirmation of Gerry Ryan's death before it had been officially announced caused red faces all round.

Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites can feel so anonymous that it's easy to fall into the trap of saying something before you've worked out the implication it might have on others. And although most of the contributions are insanely mundane (hands up), it's very possible that in a fit of rage you might just say something you shouldn't.

When Grant Raphael posted comments about an old school friend's alleged sexual orientation on Facebook in 2008, he had no idea it would end up costing him £22,000 in what would be a landmark judgment.

Meanwhile, teenagers -- who already face enough trouble with cyber-bullying -- now have to be careful as they might not realise what they're posting is illegal.

Will any of this stop me tweeting? Hell it will. Nor should you stop - just for God's sake be careful what you say.