Open and Fair Trial in the Social Media Era – An Insurmountable Conflict or an Emerging Opportunity?
The ideal of open trial in the social media era faces a number of obstacles and challenges that are due on the one hand to the instant information propagation afforded by the digital environment, on the other to the much more widely available disseminating technology. At the same time, a number of opportunites for rethinking the concept of open trial arise too. Taking recent consultations in England and Scotland on the use of live social media reportng during trial proceedings as a starting point, we argue that the decision by both systems to allow in principle tools such as Twitter aimed correctly at maximising openness, but in failing to unpack further the concept of open justice, and in avoiding a deeper analysis of possible technological solutions, missed an opportunity to mitgate the inherent tensions between open and fair trial further. In the paper, we firstly discuss such an “unpacking” of the open trial ideal, trying to isolate those aspects that are “intrinsic” to the concept from those that were merely historically contingent responses to technological and social constrains at the time. We then discuss a simple technical response to some of the concerns voiced but not resolved in the consultations. We then move on to a more abstract thought experiment on how technology might enable much more radical (and at the same time historical) versions of open trials.