Regulating #indyref: Social Media and the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013

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Abstract

The social networking service Facebook was founded in 2004, followed by the micro-blogging platform Twitter in 2006. Nearly a decade on these social media services have expanded rapidly. As of June 2014 Twitter hosts 255 million monthly active users, with Facebook recording 1.23 billion monthly active users worldwide. Scotland has not been exempt from these developments. A British Telecom study in 2012 found that Scottish households employ the internet for social networking more than any other part of the United Kingdom, with 48.2% of Scots making regular use of these platforms. In parallel, the availability of inexpensive or free blogging platforms and web-hosting has transformed anyone with a computer, internet-access and an opinion into a potential publisher, unmediated by the more traditional gatekeepers of the print press.The impact of these new media forms on political debate in Scotland hasbeen considerably amplified by the independence referendum campaign, which has already seen unprecedented levels of online dialogue involving the official campaigns,political parties, traditional media outlets, bloggers, concerned organisations andinterested citizens. From an academic perspective the opportunity these platforms provide and the power of informal networks for the distribution of content have allowed substantial, direct and immediate engagement between the academy and the wider community. In the legal field, the Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum andthe Future of the UK and Scotland blogs have allowed Scottish scholars to make an unprecedented contribution to the national debate.With the commencement of the sixteen week pre-poll “regulated period” at thebeginning of June 2014, this exchange of ideas is now subject to regulation under the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013. This article considers the relevant provisions of the 2013 Act in detail, arguing that they fail to take recent developments in the practice of online communication properly into account.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-410
Number of pages5
JournalEdinburgh Law Review
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

Keywords

  • scottish independence referendum
  • social media regulation

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