Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Paul Tweed defends libel veto

Northern Ireland could become the libel capital of the world

Paul Tweed defends the Stormont veto of libel reform in the Belfast Telegraph, July 31 2013. In full here.
"If the proposed changes to the defamation laws are ultimately introduced, it is the ordinary people of Northern Ireland who will be the losers – not the lawyers.
We, at least, have the option of practising in a jurisdiction where the libel laws are more friendly towards the ordinary citizen and international corporation and we do not have to travel very far."

Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan to be investigated over Royal baby tweet

The relevant tweet was raised and pursued by Jim Allister MLA. Read more here.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Mary Beard - Naming and shaming Twitter Trolls

Kat Lay reported July 29 in the Times on the power of naming and shaming Twitter trolls:
'"The classical historian Mary Beard silenced an online abuser today by naming and shaming him on Twitter.
Ms Beard, who had been on BBC Radio 2 to discuss rape threats and other abuse on Twitter, retweeted an explicit message from Oliver Rawlings in which he referred to Ms Beard’s genitals and age.
After other users expressed their outrage, with one user offering to supply Ms Beard with Mr Rawling’s mother’s address, he took the message down and apologised.
He wrote: “I sincerely apologise for my trolling. I was wrong and very rude. Hope this can be forgotten and forgiven.”
He later added: “I feel this had been a good lesson for me. Thanks 4 showing me the error of my ways.”
His original tweet was apparently in response to Ms Beard’s description of abuse she had previously received on the site. She told presenter Jeremy Vine she had been “bombarded” with messages “commenting on the size, the smell, the capacity of my vagina. It was unbelievable.”
The don said exposing ’trolls’ was the best tactic. Talking to a fellow user about her decision to highlight the abuse, she tweeted: “It is a tough call. I have increasingly opted for name and shame."'

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Michael Nugent - Getting rid of Ireland's blasphemy law

A response:




Friday, 26 July 2013

Judge Justice Horner - "Anyone who uses Facebook does so at his or her peril”

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Olivia O'Kane of Belfast solicitors Carson McDowell quoted a judge presiding over a social media case. The judge, the Honourable Mr Justice Horner said:
"Before I go on … I should say that anyone who uses Facebook does so at his or her peril."
Olivia O'Kane then said in the Telegraph:
"Post at your peril... social media sites offer no protection from law."  
Read the court case in full here. Olivia O'Kane wrote further analysis on the Carson McDowell website here. Images of the original Telegraph article below:

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The problems with Cameron's porn crackdown

Andrew Sullivan quotes a civil liberties activist here:
"Jim Killock, from the Open Rights Group, said Cameron’s plan was not only bound to fail but also sets a dangerous precedent of government intervention when it comes to freedom of expression and access to information. “I’m not sure censorship is ever the answer,” he said. “It’s a shocking attempt to claim the moral high ground. … I don’t think he fully understands what he is proposing.”"

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Mike Nesbitt explains why NI needs libel reform

Mike Nesbitt wrote in the Belfast Telegraph on July 23 here:
"In all my years in broadcast journalism, I was involved in very few cases of defamation, but, of those that did emerge, all involved the political classes. Indeed, they all involved the DUP: two were brought by elected representatives; the third by those offended by comments made by one of their senior members.
So, should politicians declare an interest when commentating on the laws of defamation? They should certainly bear it in mind."

Thursday, 18 July 2013

DUP use the old libel law to control the media and speech

Mike Nesbitt, Newton Emerson and Sam McBride explain why DUP vetoed libel reform

Mike Nesbitt was featured in the News Letter under a headline that roughly went: the rich and powerful are using the libel law to gag the media.

Newton Emerson said something to similar effect in the Sunday Times of July 7 2013, as you can see in the image below:
"The DUP has offered no satisfactory explanation for blocking Westminster’s Libel Reform Act… but the blizzard of writs the DUP sent Spotlight, both before and after the broadcast, highlights the unusually large role that libel plays in NI’s political discourse."

Editor may sue after paper Tweets her mobile number

From the Irish edition of the Sunday Times of July 14 2013 (page 3).

Cyberbullying should be crime in ROI says Irish report

From the Irish Times:
'The report from the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, says there are few criminal prosecutions of reported harassment involving social networking, email or text messages.'
Read the original article seen above here. Since then a report by an Oireachtas committee has said that cyberbullying and suicide are not necessarily linked and should be treated as separate issues. Read more on that here.

Unpleasant odour coming from NI libel law says QC

David Pannick QC, a practising barrister at Blackstone Chambers in the Temple, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a crossbench peer in the House of Lords wrote in the Times on July 18 2013. He said here:
"The recently passed Defamation Act 2013 will introduce much-needed reform of an area of the law that has become an anachronistic, obscure and unjustifiable fetter on freedom of speech. It comes into force later this year. But not in Northern Ireland. The reluctance of Northern Ireland politicians to adopt the 2013 Act will, as a libel lawyer would say, lower them in the estimation of right-thinking people.
The coalition agreement promised a review of the law of defamation. The Government published a draft Bill, which was the subject of public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. This led to all-party agreement on the necessary reforms.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

28 months for Facebook troll

Reece Elliott was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court for two years and four months, after admitting one count of making threats to kill on Facebook and a further eight offences under the Communications Act.
Read more in the Guardian here

DUP Censorship

Following the Spotlight investigation into Nelson McCausland's dodgy dealings, Sam McBride made an illuminating observation on DUP libel reform policy:

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Social Media Law in Ireland, Ctd a timeline of events

To understand the social media situation in Ireland we need to go back to December 28 2012 when the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications announced that it would examine the role of social media in public life.

Committee chairman and Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes was instructed to lead the investigation and to report back to Minister for Communications, Pat Rabitte in early 2013. It’s also important to note that the decision to investigate social media fell against a dark back cloth: the recent suicide of the minister of state for agriculture, Fine Gael TD Shane McEntree. His death has been attributed in part to a period of social media abuse which followed an earlier budget announcement. 

Social Media and the Law in Ireland

T J McIntyre is a law lecturer and solicitor and has repesented Digital Rights Ireland. You can see his very worthwhile blog here.

He writes on IT and the law surrounding new technologies and media. He provided a comprehensive over of the laws that govern social media behaviour in Ireland which you can read here and here.

You can see the presentation and overview of the Irish law that covers social media below:

Arcane libel laws have contributed to patient deaths said doctor

Read the News Letter report in full here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Index on Censorship speaks out against NI libel isolationism

Mike Harris, head of advocacy with Index on Censorship wrote a article, 'Stormont must give us a libel law fit for modern age,' in the Belfast Telegraph and on the Index website, available here and here. Mike wrote:
"To protect free speech, US President Barack Obama signed into law the US Speech Act to protect US citizens from the effect of English, Welsh and Northern Irish libel law, an act described as a “national embarrassment” by MPs. 
Now Northern Ireland is alone with its embarrassing libel law. The law of England and Wales has been substantially reformed after the Libel Reform Campaign won support from 60,000 members of the public and over 100 charities and campaigning groups and in response the Government passed the Defamation Act. 

Lord Bew says libel law policy is bad for NI universities and journalists

The News Letter hosted an edited version of a speech given by Lord Bew to the House of Lords on the Stormont decision not to import the recent libel reforms. Read in full here.
"The truth is that British provincial, what we might call old-style redbrick universities, are finding it more and more difficult in a competitive world to retain their remarkably strong position in league tables. 
We do not seem at this point to have a problem with keeping Oxford and Cambridge — or Imperial — right up at the top, but there is considerable evidence that universities such as Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield are struggling in an intensely competitive world to maintain their relatively high positions in those league tables. Queen’s University Belfast is certainly not exempt from that difficult struggle. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Lord Black says DUP Iibel laws put jobs and investment at risk

The Belfast Telegraph reported on the Tory peer, Lord Black of Brentwood who was speaking in the House of Lords following Stormont's decision to uphold the old libel regime:
"Lord Black of Brentwood has warned that media jobs are at risk because Northern Ireland will be in danger of becoming the "libel capital" of the world."
Lord Black of Brentwood in his own words said:
"When politicians set their face against the future, investment and jobs suffer. Over 4,000 people work in publishing in Northern Ireland and another 2,000 work in broadcast. Some of those jobs may well be at risk if some of those companies decide that it is now too dangerous to operate in a jurisdiction that stifles freedom of expression.
Lord Black also warned that foreign investors could be deterred from operating in Northern Ireland:
"I can see no circumstances in which Google, Yahoo, AOL, Twitter and others would establish businesses in an area that ties them to an out-of-date, repressive libel jurisdiction.This decision is, in effect, rejecting the high-end jobs that the province desperately needs."
Mick Fealty on Slugger O'Toole went a little deeper, he said:
"Most opposition that’s not coming from Jim Allister, is coming from the media. The retreat from political opposition on the hill (Phil Flanagan of SF seems to be the only other MLA playing that role at the moment), means that there is no coherent political critique of this and other issues available other than that which journalism makes on its own behalf. 
Besides one of the notable characteristics of the current set up is just how sensitive the folks on the hill are about anyone speaking out of turn. Hardly surprising since it so rarely happens in the chamber, that early (and often unreasonable/unsustainable) resort to the law has become commonplace."