On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Can Twitter Be Compelled To Retrospectively Remove A Offensive Tweet
What Has Happened?
In December 2021 an Independent Regulatory Commission upheld professional footballer Marc Bola’s, application to stop the wording of a historic tweet from being published.
What Does it Mean?
The background to the decision traces its historical origins back to a tweet sent by the Middlesbrough player in April 2012 which was disclosed to the media after it was uncovered in 2021. It had apparently been sent around a decade ago and contained apparently homophobic content. When the message was sent Mr Bola was enrolled in the Arsenal Football Club Academy and was fourteen. In more detail Mr Bola’s legal team submitted on his behalf that his personal welfare and of those closest to him would be put at risk. This was arguably because the tweet has been uploaded to the social media network many years ago, it was not available in the public domain and the disclosure of it would leave Mr Bola open to criticism.
The Football Association published a statement confirming that Mr Bola had submitted correspondence to the Association admitting violating Rule E3 which applies to similar social media posts. Due to the regulatory breach the FA issued a warning to him and compelled him to take an education programme via an independent Regulatory Commission. The Football Association underlined the seriousness of Mr Bola’s conduct by considering his actions of sending the offensive, abusive, improper, unacceptable tweets as bringing football into disrepute.
At a December 2021 hearing Mr Bola applied to stop the written reasons for the decision containing the offensive wording of the tweet from being released. The Independent Regulatory Commission had to come to a decision as to whether the events which took place in the matter justified editing the written reasons in such a way as to remove the wording of the tweet in question.The Independent Regulatory Commission considered the evidence presented by Mr Bola, applied the criteria and found in his favour meaning that the written reasons would not contain the wording of the offensive tweet.
What Impact Could This Have on the Legal Sector
If any lawyers are instructed on similar cases, they should be seeking to adopt a two-pronged approach by persuading clients that the sending of such offensive, insulting and abusive tweets may not be the best of moves. Alerting them to the danger of such tweets resurfacing and advising of the potential difficulties clients may face when seeking to have such tweets removed from their social media accounts.
Mr Bola through the medium of his legal team, managed to successfully persuade the Independent Regulatory Commission that its decision to punish footballers for indiscretions of this kind should be predicated upon the criteria for punishments aligned with the regulations from a decade ago when the original tweet was sent. The Football Association initially found that the sending of this tweet was contrary to Football Association Rule 3.2 as it is the equivalent of an ‘aggravated breach’ primarily because it relates to the protected characteristic of ‘sexual orientation’ as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
The Independent Regulatory Commission helpfully provided its reasons for making decisions of this nature and it also contained a number of factors to consider when contemplating the removal of historical offensive tweets such as the positive action of physically pressing the delete button to remove the tweet, issuing an apology to the public and those concerned respective stakeholders, the age and maturity of the individual concerned at the time of the published tweet will all be taken into account. If lawyers follow this strategy it will mitigate the risk of future clients being caught up in the same situation.
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This Article was Written Using the Following Sources
 Hampson, Andy – Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola warned by FA - Press Association – 6 January 2022 - Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola warned by FA over tweet sent aged 14 but escapes ban | Daily Mail Online’
 Wallace, Sam – Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola wins landmark ruling over offensive tweet sent as a 14 year old –Telegraph - 6 January 2022 - Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola wins landmark ruling over offensive tweet sent as a 14 year-old (telegraph.co.uk)
 Football Association – Middlesbrough’s Marc Bola Warned after Admitting a breach of FA Rule E3 – 06 January 2022 - Marc Bola warned (thefa.com)
 Football Association – Middlesbrough’s Marc Bola Warned after Admitting a breach of FA Rule E3 Rule link - pdfs – 06 January 2022 - Marc Bola warned (thefa.com)
 Rule E3.1 – Football Association Rule
 Rule E3.2- Football Association Rule
 Section 12 - Equality Act 2010 - Equality Act 2010 (legislation.gov.uk)