Tag Archives: law

Police pay Seismic Shock blogger a visit over 'harassment'

This* is worrying on so many levels:

  • a blogger links to evidence linking a reverend in the Anglican church with holocaust denial and antisemitism
  • the reverend complains to Surrey Police, who pass it on to Yorkshire Police, who pay the blogger a visit, during which the blogger agrees to delete one of his blogs.
  • in addition, it appears that the police have also spoken to the university which the blogger attends, where the head of ICT “would like to remind me that I should not be using university property in order to associate individuals with terrorists and Holocaust deniers”
  • The blogger eventually chooses to speak up when the same reverend threatens another blogger with similar action (despite them being in Australia)

Forget about the specifics. Here are the questions:

  • Why are police getting involved in a libel issue ? Update: West Yorks police say it was a claim of “harassment”.
  • Why are they ‘paying a visit’?
  • Why are they approaching an educational institution to gather information on that person?
  • Why does that educational institution then get involved?

Extremely worrying. Watch this one.

*If that link doesn’t work, try this or this.

Defamation and the internet: a consultation response to the Ministry of Justice

Last month I blogged about the consultation currently taking place on the law of defamation and the multiple publication rule. The deadline for that is today. Below I’ve published my own responses. If you feel I’ve got something wrong or missed something, please let me know.

Question 1. Taking into account the arguments set out [in the document], do you consider in principle that the multiple publication rule should be retained? If not, should a single publication rule be introduced? Please give reasons for your answers.

Comments: Based on the arguments set out, I do not believe that the multiple publication rule should be retained. The primary reason for this is that the burden of proof in these cases rests on the publishers, in situations where any records may well have disappeared. This is particularly problematic when employment within publishing is increasingly unpredictable, and employees – along with their records – are either frequently leaving or being made redundant from positions, or working for the organisation on a freelance basis. A single publication rule should be introduced. Continue reading

Presentation: Law for bloggers and journalists (UK)

Yesterday I hosted a session on law for my MA Online Journalism students, which I thought I would embed below.

Some background: I teach all my sessions in a coffee shop in central Birmingham – anyone can drop in. This week I specifically invited local bloggers, and so the shape of the presentation was very much flavoured by contributions from The Lichfield Blog‘s Philip John; Nick Booth from Podnosh and BeVocal; Talk About Local‘s Nicky Getgood; Hannah Waldram of the Bournville Village BlogGavin Wray, Matthew Mark, and Mike Rawlins of Stoke’s Pits N Pots. The editor of the Birmingham Post Marc Reeves also came for an hour to share his own experiences in the regional press.

Two things occurred to me during the process of preparation and delivery of the session. The first is that law in this context is much broader: as well as the classic areas for journalists such as defamation, you have to take into account online publishing issues such as terms and conditions, data protection and user generated content.

Secondly, I’ve long been an advocate of conversational teaching styles (one of the reasons I teach in a coffee lounge) and this was a great example of that in practice. The presentation below is just a series of signposts – the actual session lasted 4 hours and included various tangents (some of which I’ve incorporated into this published version). Experiences in the group of students and guests ranged across broadcasting, print, photography, online publishing, academic study, and international law, and I came out of the session having learned a lot too.

I hope you can add some more points, examples, or anything I’ve missed. Here it is:

Do something now: help change the daft defamation law on online publishing

Forget about turning your Twitter avatar green or adding a Twibbon, here’s something you can do today which can make a genuine difference to both professional journalists and bloggers: write to the Ministry of Justice as part of their consultation on defamation which has just a few weeks left:

“This consultation seeks views on the ‘multiple publication rule’ under which [people can be sued for every time a web article has been  accessed], and its effects in relation to online archives. The paper considers the arguments for and against the rule and the alternatives of a single publication rule.”

This consultation couldn’t have been published in a more user-unfriendly way. The consultation page consists mainly of a link to a PDF and a Word document (which was clearly written for an online form that was never created, even down to HTML coding).

There is no clear address to send your responses to. You’ll find it on the 4th line of the Word document. It’s defamationandtheinternet@justice.gsi.gov.uk. Don’t worry, I’ll repeat that again at the end of the post.

UPDATE: RightToReply.org have published the consultation in their trademark easy-to-respond form here.

Here’s what they’re asking (also hereherehereherehere and here), reproduced in a rather easier-to-navigate format and rephrased for slightly easier reading: Continue reading

Do blogs make reporting restrictions pointless?

The leaked DNA test on 13-year-old alleged dad Alfie Patten has revealed a big problem with court-ordered reporting restrictions in the internet age. (NB This is a cut down version of a much longer original post on blogging and reporting restrictions that was featured on the Guardian).

Court orders forbidding publication of certain facts apply only to people or companies who have been sent them. But this means there is nothing to stop bloggers publishing material that mainstream news organisations would risk fines and prison for publishing.

Even if a blogger knows that there is an order, and so could be considered bound by it, an absurd catch 22 means they can’t found out the details of the order – and so they risk contempt of court and prison.

Despite the obvious problem the Ministry of Justice have told me they have no plans to address the issue. Continue reading

BNP members names mapped – anonymity (and backs) protected

In the UK the leaking of a list of the members of far right party BNP online has created a classic new media problem for journalists: anyone can find the information, but no one in the mainstream media dare publish it for legal reasons… or can they? From Ewan McIntosh (via Stuart on the 38minutes blog):

“To republish the list would be illegal, so newspapers such as the Guardian printed the numerical stats on line-art maps. Far from breaking the law, it was crowdsourcing that came up with a better solution, both allowing us to see how many BNP-ers are on our doorstep without revealing their names and exact locations. Cue the anonymous, but powerful, BNP member Google Heatmap, which has since allowed our Government ministers to realise the pockets where local politics lets people down.”