Like many, I spent a little time at the weekend playing a game called ‘how well do you know Google’, in which I tried to get to the name of the ‘Top Flight Premiership Footballer’ in the injunction case with as few Google searches as possible. Got it on the second page of the second search, so obviously I score pretty low on the Google capability. Anyway, the point of the search was not so much to enjoy the salacious gossip around Who’s Bedding Who And Keeping It Out Of The Public Domain, but more to understand the workings of the footballer’s brain.
So, I’ll try to explain that last bit. After all, you might think this is an elaborate bluff to justify a good leer at Busty Welsh Big Brother Beauty Imogen Thomas (28), and it’s not.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how long the press can continue in its current form; not just with the takeover of printed media by online, but in the whole area of traditional journalism. In times gone by, the journalistic right to privilege was very tightly bound to the media group that they were representing. In some areas where you might least expect it (the NoW’s phone tapping case, for example), this is still the case, and we see charges levied against the business rather than the writer. But these times will soon be behind us, and the concept of journalistic privilege, where conversations can be off the record, where confidential anonymity can be protected, and where journalistic opinion is protected by the publisher, will no longer exist. Some of this is a good thing. The media in this country has long been dominated by some pretty extreme views, which might purport to represent the readership, but do far more to influence it politically. And in an age where the internet allows individuals to be, well, individuals, then it’s absolutely appropriate that people can source their own news sources, mixing, for example, the relative independence of the BBC with their favourite blogs, or what’s trending on Twitter. All of which, I think in general is a good thing.
Which brings me back to the weekend, where I was listening to a very worthy legal expert describing the Criminal Justice view on following up on ‘name & shame’ Twitter Tweets. In the unlikely event that you’ve missed this, the idea is that a celebrity takes out a ‘superinjunction’ to suppress any mention of their name with a gossip story, lest it damages their reputation. And when there’s a threat that it might leak, through the crowd-power that is Twitter, they look to take the information’s source to court. Anyway, this chap was justifying the action against Twitter by using a rather charming analogy.
“Let’s just say that we were receiving abusive mail from a PO Box*”, he said, “We’d be completely within our rights to ask the post office to name the sender”
The problem is, that this is so far and away the wrong analogy to use, that I do wonder where such people have been for the last ten years. Sending a Tweet is not the same as sending a letter. At All. If you wanted to use a more appropriate analogy, think about the way that rumours used to spread around – one person would tell somebody something in a pub, that person would tell someone at work, and before you knew it, the next week it was being relayed back to you, often with lots of embellishment. Well, that’s kind of how social media like Twitter works.
And only a completely out of touch dimwit would try to sue the equivalent of chatter in a public bar, showing themselves to be so far out of touch with reality (and indeed, their own importance) that they’d be made a laughing stock.
And that’s why I was keen to find out who it was. And now I do.
*No, I don’t know who would send abusive mail from a PO Box, either