Friday, 30 August 2013

Christopher Hitchens on England's pre-2013 libel system

Christopher Hitchens explained how his magazine Vanity Fair was sued for libel by Roman Polanski:
"Just for discussing this subject [child abuse] a couple of years ago, my magazine Vanity Fair was sued by Mr Polanski from Paris in London. Not in America but where he thought the jurisdiction would be easier on him. He didn't even have to appear in person because he thought that  might be risky. He made a video deposition. We claimed he had no reputation to defend. He walked away with a lot of our money on a libel judgement saying this couldn't be discussed."
Watch original video here from 4 minutes 50 seconds. Christopher Hitchens had previously explained what happened in a 2009 article for Slate Magazine. He said of the 2005 libel case:
"In July 2005, Polanski took advantage of the notorious British libel laws to sue my colleagues at Vanity Fair and collect damages for his hurt feelings. It doesn't matter much what the supposed complaint was—he had allegedly propositioned a Scandinavian model while purring about making her the next Sharon Tate—so much as it mattered that Polanski would dare to sue on a question of his own moral standing and reputation. "I don't think," he was quoted as saying of the allegation, "you could find a man who could behave in such a way." Say what? Anxious for his thin skin, the British courts did not even put Polanski to the trouble of appearing in a country where he has never lived. They allowed him to pout his outraged susceptibilities by video link before heaping him with fresh money. At this point, I began to feel a cold spot forming in my own heart. And then, just last December, while still on the lam, Polanski filed from abroad to have the original Los Angeles child-rape case, in which he had pleaded guilty, dismissed without further ado.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

2,111 Social Media-incidents reported to PSNI in first 6 months of 2013

The following question was put to the Chief Constable:
"To ask the Chief Constable to detail the number of arrests and prosecutions made in relation to offences on Twitter and Facebook in Northern Ireland in the year so far beginning January 1 2013, providing a breakdown of the arrests and prosecutions by PSNI Districts A-H." 
The following response was given:
"Currently, the PSNI does not record any specific offence types that relate to social media and therefore it is not possible to provide counts of arrests. In addition, the PSNI do not routinely record data in respect of prosecutions and this aspect of the request should be referred to the PPS and/or NICtS.  

To ascertain the true nature of any incident would require a manual review of the incident details to determine whether the incident related to a complaint, crime, or arrest involving social media, or whether facebook or Twitter was mentioned in the investigation log for other reasons. To carry out such a trawl would require the extraction of resources from core duties, which we are unable to facilitate at this time. 

However, I can confirm that the number of incidents where the words facebook or Twitter occur in the incident investigation logs is stated below:-   
2009 - 4 (The ability to search investigation logs was commenced on 14/10/2009)
2010 - 73
2011 - 1,541
2012 - 2,887
2013 - 2,111 (for the period, 1st January 2013 to 14th June 2013) 

It should be highlighted that above counts relate to reported incidents, rather than the number of individual arrests/prosecutions as previously mentioned.

In addition, if facebook or Twitter is mentioned in an incident investigation log, this does not signify that a crime or arrest occurred.

If facebook or Twitter are mentioned in an incident investigation log, this does not signify that facebook or Twitter were used by PSNI officers as part of the investigation.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Allison Morris - Social Media Gives Leg Up To Extremists

Writing in the Irish News Allison Morris makes some apt observations about the social media community in Northern Ireland:
"While social networking cannot be held solely accountable for the rise in sectarianism in the north, it is facilitating people wanting to shape the views and language of a generation of young people who conduct much of the social interaction online." 
And another:
"People who in life would have little chance of success due to their obvious limitations can go online and attract large followings of like minded groupies."

Friday, 16 August 2013

UK libel laws undermined journalists in Armstrong Case

Lisa O'Carrol explained in the Guardian how the UK libel regime made things very difficult for the Sunday paper:
"Lawyers involved in the 2004 case said the Sunday Times did not stand a chance once the courts decided they had to produce evidence that Armstrong was an actual cheat.

Gill Phillips, one of the Sunday Times lawyers who dealt with the litigation and now director of editorial legal services at Guardian News & Media, which publishes MediaGuardian, said: "The way British libel laws are, the burden of proof lay with the paper. We did not have enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof on the paper to show Armstrong was guilty. We had this body of very strong, but mainly circumstantial, evidence that was quite hard, but which was not enough to win.

"This makes it very difficult for investigative journalism. For all sorts of technical reasons, UK libel law makes it hard to write this sort of story, particularly when the evidence points to guilt, but doesn't actually prove it."
Lisa in full here.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wall Street Journal - The UK's Doublespeak on Internet Freedoms

Ben Rooney in the Wall Street Journal here, called up the UK for government for its contradictory remarks on Internet freedoms. Ben Rooney made a first observation: 
"Here are two conflicting opinions about Internet censorship. Can you guess which government said which? You can chose from the following: China, the U.S., and the U.K. First: Democratic governments must resist the calls to censor a wide range of content just because they or others find it offensive or objectionable. Second: Put simply, there needs to be a list of terms—a blacklist—which offer up no direct search returns.
He then answered his rhetorical question: 
"It is a trick question. The U.K. government said both. The first was by Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking at the Budapest Conference on Cyberspace in October 2012. The second was by Prime Minister David Cameron in July 2013 at a U.K. children’s charity event." 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Richard Susskind discusses online dispute resolution

It's reported that Ebay has to deal with 60 million disagreements a year. That is not dealt with through the courts but by the mechanism of online dispute resolution.

Richard Susskind explains how this process works at 22 minutes here.

Ruth Patteron, The Communications Act 2003 and the New Labour Terror Law

Mick Fealty covers (here) the legal analysis from Newton Emerson who said, writing in the Irish News, that Blair-era terror laws make prosecution against Ruth Patterson-type communications that bit easier.

Ruth Patteron was arrested and then charged on the grounds of making a 'grossly offensive communication' as per the Communications Act 2003 on Facebook. She will appear in court on August 22 2013 and has said that she will plead 'not guilty'.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Over 1,700 cases involving abusive messages sent online or via textmessage reached Britain's courts

Over 1,700 cases involving abusive messages sent online or via text message reached Britain's courts in 2012. This news comes after the BBC lodged a Freedom of Information request.

More information on the BBC here


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Caroline Criado-Perez and Twitter abuse

Writing in the Times Libby Purves (@lib_thinks) gives her thoughts on the recent wave of Twitter abuse launched against the Jane Austen banknote campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez:
"Until 1935 you didn’t need a driving test in Britain. Until 1967 there was no drink-driving limit, until 1983 no safety-belt law. Until the 1960s you could put up a sign saying “NO BLACKS NO IRISH”. Convicts could be birched till 1962; schoolchildren caned quite recently (it was in South Africa that enraged nuns would lay about me with a ruler, rosaries rattling, but contemporaries in the UK report the same). You could blow smoke in people’s faces in a pub or office till 2006. Thus the borders of what is acceptable and legal in any civilisation naturally change.

They do not always contract: we now have same-sex marriage, and a historically unprecedented range of personal rights. But new things happen (such as mass immigration) or are discovered (such as tobacco causing lung cancer) and philosophical perspectives alter too. So the rules change.