Judge OKs Twitter in Assange appeal

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Judge OKs Twitter in Assange appeal

Bail set but appealed.

District Judge Howard Riddle on Tuesday chose to allow for the first time journalists to publish Twitter updates of a proceedings from within a British courtroom for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's appeal for bail.

Assange has been held in a British jail as Swedish prosecutors attempt to extradite him on sex crime allegations. Assange has denied the charges.

On Tuesday afternoon Riddle set Assange's bail at £240,000 ($379,000). Assange will have to wear an electronic ankle tag, live at a fixed address and observe strict curfews.

Swedish prosecutors have lodged a High Court appeal, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

Times journalist Alexi Mostrous (@AlexiMostrous), freelance reporter Heather Brooke (@newsbrooke), BBC Two's Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews), and (US) ABC News Foreign Correspondent Jim Scuitto (@jimsciuttoABC) have been posting regular updates throughout Assange's appeal, thanks to Riddle's decision.

While Tweeting was allowed, traditional rules regarding recording devices and phones remained in place.

A security guard reportedly told the Times' Mostrous that phones were to be switched off. That is, unless he was taking notes with the device, which was allowed.

UK courts, like those in Australia, forbid the use of sound and image recording devices, however there is no statutory ban on creating text on electronic devices.

Micro-blogging had apparently never been tested in the UK.

Guardian reporters were surprised by the notion of publishing live updates via Twitter.

"This is the weirdest way to report court proceedings. Why don't they televise it and have done with it?" asked journalist Matthew Weaver.

An Australian federal judge in 2009 took a practical if not positive view of reporters using Twitter from within court when faced with it during iiNet's copyright infringement hearing.

"On the basis that Twittering does not distract or interfere with the conduct of my court, I personally have no objection to its use," said Justice Dennis Cowdroy.

"I believe that the public has a legitimate right to be fully informed of proceedings, particularly proceedings such as (the iiNet case) which have attracted considerable public interest."

In fact, he thought it Twitter may be a better platform to publish trials than traditional media.

"Twittering can serve to inform the public in a more speedy and comprehensive manner than may be possible through traditional media coverage."

If the case against Assange ever reaches Sweden's court system, it's likely journalists will be allowed to use Twitter there also.

During the recent Pirate Bay appeal in Sweden's Svea Court of Appeal, Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde wrote prolifically, often using the platform to mock his prosecutors' technical knowledge.

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