To tweet or not to tweet

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A COUNCILLOR once arrested over comments posted on an internet forum has spoken after a council launched a legal bid to unmask a blogger using the social networking site Twitter.

South Tyneside Council took legal action to get details of a blogger known as Mr Monkey, who is alleged to have posted a number of criticisms and allegations against councillors and council officers.

The authority asked website bosses to hand over the details of a number of accounts as part of the libel investigation, which Twitter has done.

Councillor Geoff Lilley says he has not changed the way he uses the internet since he was arrested over comments allegedly made about fellow councillor Marjorie James.

But the independent councillor for the Greatham ward admits that the internet does have its dangers, although he thinks each case has to be taken in context.

The 61-year old, who is serving his third consecutive term as a councillor in the ward, refused to comment on whether he thinks Twitter is within its right to hand over the details of the account holder.

But he told the Mail: “The internet is like Pandora’s box and it is constantly changing.

“It is so powerful now and so many people use social networking sites and have their own blogs.

“I think people are aware of the dangers and if Mr Monkey is removed, it won’t be long until there is a Mrs Monkey.”

Coun Lilley was arrested earlier this year as part of a police investigation into posts made on a community internet forum.

After spending eight hours in custody he was released on bail and then told he would not face further action.

He added: “In my personal case since the incident earlier this year, I can say that I haven’t changed the way I post.

“I think it’s fantastic that people get the opportunity online to have their say.

“Whether it’s on Twitter, on forums or on comment boxes on websites.

“It’s good for the general public to be able to get involved.”

The councillor said he understands why people use pseudonyms on the websites and he does not see why that should change.

He added: “The one thing that does surprise me about the latest case is the fact that it is South Tyneside Council which is pursuing the legal action and not the individual.

“How much is that going to cost?

“It must see what is been said as a threat.

“What happened to sticks and stones?

“It’s an interesting one to keep an eye on.”