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.)

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism