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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Superinjunctions (Imogen Thomas vs CTB vs twitter)

Shortened link to this page if you need it -

I posted an article a while back about how useless the general public are at reporting news. Twitter is often hailed as a way of the public spreading news, but the problem is that you have no idea where rumours started. Journalists (well, some of them - and you can probably figure out which ones have integrity) at least have a vague idea about how to source information reliably. It's their job to do so. And most members of the public suck at it. For this reason, we need journalists to do their job.

Background info

Right, superinjunctions. A standard injunction prevents the media releasing details of something. A superinjunction prevents them from even mentioning that they can't talk about it. There are two problems with this:

Firstly it is country specific. We are in a globally connected world. If you gag the UK media from talking about something that doesn't prevent someone outside the UK from publishing it, rendering the entire thing pointless. The story is out, but the UK media likely still can't talk about it unless the injunction is lifted.

Secondly, there is an issue with what happens if it 'escapes' onto twitter. The superinjunctions only have a chance in hell of serving a useful purpose if it prevents such things getting out sites such as twitter. The concept of 'retweets' make it too easy for sensational information to spread. And once again you end up with a load of 'amateur' journalists covering the story who don't actually have a clue what they're talking about. And so there's even less chance of anyone having a clue about a story than if we let the media cover it.

What happened yesterday (20 May 2011)

Now today's news: Footballer takes proceedings against Twitter

Someone, who is referred to as 'CTB' in the report, is attempting to take legal action against the posters of the information on there. They're doing this by attempting to obtain a court order to legally force twitter to release the identities behind certain accounts. However it's sufficiently easy to create a twitter account that if you really wanted to hide you could do so - ultimately you can't necessarily easily identify who posted any particular item. And this is twitter we're talking about - there are any number of sical networking sites out there - at what point does it become something that requires action to be taken? And is the poster the person who will get into trouble, or someone who supplied the information. If it can't be traced back to someone restricted under the superinjunction then there can't be a case to answer, right?

Which fundamentally makes me confused about what they're hoping to achieve from the lawsuit. I suppose there was an inevitability about it - someone was going to launch some test case about the journalistic masses at some point - but I'm not sure what CTB is hoping to achieve by this.I'm not quite sure how that's supposed to work. Twitter is a medium for people to publish. They could censor keywords, remove tweets, but fundamentally that's hard to monitor and be able to do successfully. And I don't think we want too much censorship of the public in this day and age.

Why don't we just let the press do the jobs and report on things. If necessary give a court order to delay publication of a story in order that the people involved get time to react (which appears to be what Max Mosley is keen on) but either give up on superinjunctions or render them irrelevant if the story is published in another country or widely publicised on social networking sites. 15 years ago where most people's information came from TV/newspapers you had a limited amount of publishers which could be covered by a superinjunction. In 2011 that's simple not possible.

I won't post the allegation here. I'm sure they wanted to stop the released info they would, but here is the original tweet. It's still there. Twitter could delete it (which would cancel all the native retweets) but there's not too much point now.

A view on how celebrities need to behave

A friend of mine who said the following about celebrities and injunctions when he heard about this story:

I just don't get any of this stuff, if they didn't want people to show an interest in their private lives why did they become celebrities and earn millions of pounds ?

To be honest, given they earn millions of pounds, they all drive exotic cars that the rest of us can only dream about, they're married to stunning women AND they have affairs and shag even more stunning women, why should we do anything to "protect their privacy" ? They can't expect to have all the perks in life and have no down-sides. They ought to realise how lucky they are and stop fretting. Why do they care about what's in the press ? I don't read the press so if someone wrote something about me it wouldn't have any effect on me. They only care because they a "celebrities", feasting on the good-will of the rest of society.

Fair point. And there is a lot of people thinking "If you don't want it to be known, don't do it - you make your own bed and lie in it". And is the alleged £50k-£100k requested to keep her mouth shut perfectly reasonable for a very high earner as a price for a mistress?

Final thoughts - 30 years ago it'd be a non-issue

On another note I also found it interesting that in the 'When playboys ruled the world' documentary that it was accepted by the wives of sports stars that they would play around (46:30 into it, the next ten minutes or so is talking about injunctions). Yet somehow in this supposedly more liberal and open time we've gone back to a point where a scandal about infidelity is headline news, where it was just accepted previously. Heck 'accepted' isn't the word - it was almost expected as a lifestyle that people would look up to. It's not like there isn't infidelity in relationships amongst non-celebrities. Or was the acceptance just something specific to racing drivers in a dangerous sport where the consequences of any off-track actions pale into insignificance? I don't think so - Tiger Woods has proved that it happens in more sedate sports. And lets be honest, if members of the public were able to be in their lucky position, many of is would be unable to resist the tempotations too.