Technology vs privacy laws: a round up

Media Digest reported last week on the story that a Premier League footballer had filed to take Twitter and “persons unknown” to court, but the weekend saw an explosion of developments that are threatening to produce a landmark case for internet privacy law in the UK. Here’s a round-up of what occurred over the weekend.

Friday 20 May

Twitter users react to the news that the footballer has filed to sue the social network and its users by sending tweets using the name of the footballer. The hash tag associated with the story becomes a trending topic in the UK. The footballer’s Wikipedia entry is altered to include details about the gagging order.

Elsewhere, Lord Neuberger releases his report on the state of superinjunctions in the country.

Saturday 21 May

The footballer’s name continues to reverberate across Twitter.

Sunday 22 May

The Sunday Herald publishes a photograph of the alleged footballer on its front page. Text underneath the image says: “Everyone knows that this is the footballer accused of using the courts to keep allegations of a sexual affair secret, but we weren’t supposed to tell you that.”

The image features a black bar with the word “censored” written across the individual’s eyes, but it is easy to identify the player. A photo of the paper’s front page is leaked onto Twitter, and is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, and retweeted by nearly 5,000.

The editorial running alongside the picture states: “We believe it unfair that the law can not only be used to prevent the publication of information which may be in the public interest, but also to prevent any mention of such a court order. The so-called superinjunction holds no legal force in Scotland, where a separate court order is needed.”

It is also reported that a “well-known” UK journalist faces a potential prison sentence after revealing, on Twitter, the name of a separate footballer who has taken out a superinjunction.

Monday 23 May

Prime minister David Cameron offers his view on the scandal, calling the UK’s privacy laws “unsustainable” and saying they need to “catch up” with social media. Talking on ITV’s Daybreak, he says: “I think parliament’s got to take some time out, have a proper look at this, have a think about what we can do. But I’m not sure there’s going to be a simple answer to it.” He adds that current privacy rules are “unfair” on the press.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Herald‘s legal adviser, Paul McBride QC says: “We’re having this kind of surreal, parallel universe conversation where everyone with a mobile phone and access to the internet knows who the individual is, but mainstream news organisations can’t publish his name.”

No complaints have been made against the Herald, according to Attorney General Dominic Grieve.




“Before we all sink into a slough of digital dystopian despair, it might be worth considering this: is this a sign of the strength, not weakness, of revelatory journalism in the digital age?”

Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS at the London School of Economics, reacts to news that the UK government forced the Guardian into destroying hard drives that contained information leaked by Edward Snowden.

(Source: POLIS)


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