Internet gossip has brought the whole existence of celebrity super-injunctions into jeopardy and has British legal experts spinning.
Millions of computer users have now found the leaked names of TV stars and footballers who believed the gagging orders would keep their sexual indiscretions secret.
In addition, a report on the future of privacy law by a leading judge has been delayed amid the growing row over the controversial injunctions.
At one stage yesterday, 200 new followers per minute were joining the Twitter feed which smashed the legal privacy screen.
Within hours of the names’ first Twitter appearance on Sunday night, discussion spilled over on to other social network sites, notably Facebook which has more than 250 million users.
But some incorrect allegations have also appeared on the network. Political activist Jemima Khan claims she is now 'trapped in a bloody nightmare' after one Twitter message suggested she had had an affair with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer last night said the alleged breaches of the super-injunctions could render gagging orders meaningless.
‘If a point is reached as a matter of evidence when everyone knows who the injunctions are about then they become pretty pointless,’ he said. ‘It sounds like it’s very difficult to make sure that injunctions like this are complied with.’
Protected by the law: But for how much longer can celebrities keep their indiscretions under wraps?
Lawyers compared the unstoppable wave of disclosures to the Spycatcher affair of the 1980s, when the government’s attempts to silence allegations by a former MI5 agent collapsed amid legal farce.
One prominent lawyer said the judges who imposed privacy injunctions were now in danger of ‘playing King Canute’. And politicians called on the Government for parliamentary legislation to clear up the deepening mess.
Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, England’s leading civil law judge, set up a committee last year to ‘examine the issues around the use of injunctions which bind the press and so-called super-injunctions’. It was due to report by early this month, but the verdict has assumed increasing importance over recent weeks.