The weekend Twitter mocked the English Courts

What will be the effects of the CTB case?

Last Friday afternoon, when news was first emerging that a further claim had been lodged at the High Court in the CTB privacy case, I got on the phone to who I believed was the claimant's law firm.

I explained that I was from the New Statesman and that I wanted to do a quick post clarifying the exact nature of the reported legal action. Unfortunately, the press officer was "unavailable". I kept trying, but at around seven I was told that he had now "left the office for the day".

However, unlike press officers, Twitter does not leave the office for the day or go home for the weekend. Instead, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly, it can generate incredible and immediate communicative power. And it did so. Thousands of Twitter users spent the weekend mocking CTB, the Courts, and the whole notion of an injunction being used to protect personal privacy.

In many ways, this was not a pleasant spectacle. The privacy injunction had been granted, at least in part, because it had seemed to the High Court that the claimant was being blackmailed. It may well be that the anonymised injunction would not have been given but for the appearance of blackmail.

Of course, few, if any of the Twitter users -- and the tabloid journalists cheering them on -- paused for a moment to realise that all they were doing was circumventing an injunction which had been primarily granted to prevent a possible criminal act from succeeding. Indeed, the High Court's concerns about blackmail were conveniently not mentioned by anyone, if people were aware of them at all.

It was also depressing to see the sheer enthusiasm with which Twitter users served the commercial interests of the tabloid press in further weakening what little privacy law we have in the United Kingdom. This is the same tabloid press which casually disregarded for a decade the laws on phone hacking and data protection, and the same tabloid press who routinely toy with contempt of court in demonising potential suspects in murder cases. And now, the only legal restraint which actually worked -- the temporary (or "interim") injunction pending full trial in a privacy case -- may have been irrevocably trashed. We really do get the popular press we deserve.

However, facts are facts, and Twitter has gleefully shown the impotence of an injunction of the High Court granted because of concerns of blackmail. That is the reality of the situation; but the effects of this are not yet clear.

Will the High Court now see merely anonymised injunctions as pointless, knowing that the tabloids will try and prompt Twitter into serving its interests over some other weekend? If so, will this mean tougher injunctions on stricter terms? Or will the purveyors of "reputation management" see the futility of such injunctions and not advise that their clients should apply for them?

Whatever the outcome, the environment for the practical legal protection for personal privacy has changed. This may not necessarily be for the better.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and a media lawyer.

 

 

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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To stop Jeremy Corbyn, I am giving my second preference to Andy Burnham

The big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Voting is now underway in the Labour leadership election. There can be no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the frontrunner, but the race isn't over yet.

I know from conversations across the country that many voters still haven't made up their mind.

Some are drawn to Jeremy's promises of a new Jerusalem and endless spending, but worried that these endless promises, with no credibility, will only serve to lose us the next general election.

Others are certain that a Jeremy victory is really a win for Cameron and Osborne, but don't know who is the best alternative to vote for.

I am supporting Liz Kendall and will give her my first preference. But polling data is brutally clear: the big question is whether Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will face Jeremy in the final round of this election.

Andy can win. He can draw together support from across the party, motivated by his history of loyalty to the Labour movement, his passionate appeal for unity in fighting the Tories, and the findings of every poll of the general public in this campaign that he is best placed candidate to win the next general election.

Yvette, in contrast, would lose to Jeremy Corbyn and lose heavily. Evidence from data collected by all the campaigns – except (apparently) Yvette's own – shows this. All publicly available polling shows the same. If Andy drops out of the race, a large part of the broad coalition he attracts will vote for Jeremy. If Yvette is knocked out, her support firmly swings behind Andy.

We will all have our views about the different candidates, but the real choice for our country is between a Labour government and the ongoing rightwing agenda of the Tories.

I am in politics to make a real difference to the lives of my constituents. We are all in the Labour movement to get behind the beliefs that unite all in our party.

In the crucial choice we are making right now, I have no doubt that a vote for Jeremy would be the wrong choice – throwing away the next election, and with it hope for the next decade.

A vote for Yvette gets the same result – her defeat by Jeremy, and Jeremy's defeat to Cameron and Osborne.

In the crucial choice between Yvette and Andy, Andy will get my second preference so we can have the best hope of keeping the fight for our party alive, and the best hope for the future of our country too.

Tom Blenkinsop is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland