A few weeks ago I took part in a discussion at one of the big internet companies on something called ‘the right to be forgotten.’
The notion – which the giants of the web are not terribly keen on – is that information on the web, even if you put it there yourself, can be removed after a certain time. Here is one part of the argument – if young people see nothing wrong in plastering details of their lives all over their Facebook pages as teenagers, they might want to think again when they’re going for jobs, or getting married a few years on. Likewise for wrongdoers, we have a system where criminal convictions are eventually ‘spent’, and there should be some kind of modern day equivalent for the web.
It was an interesting discussion on a subject I had not really thought much about, coming as I do from a background in newspapers where, ‘once it’s in the cuttings, it’s there forever’.
But the issue was brought into stark, and frankly spectacular relief yesterday by the Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, who told the Commons that Sir Fred Goodwin, ex chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland and in many ways a symbol of the banking crisis, had won a ‘superinjunction’ to stop media outlets referring to his former role.
I don’t know if my blog is a ‘media outlet’ under the terms of the superinjunction, but I assume from this that I would be taking a risk to say ‘former banker Fred Goodwin’, except in the context of Mr Hemming’s contribution to the Commons under privilege. If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is.
David Cameron said regularly with regard to Andy Coulson that ‘everyone deserves a second chance’, and Fred Goodwin can perhaps be included in that.
But he did help preside over a banking disaster, the impact of which continues to be felt, and the lessons of which are still properly to be analysed and learned. It is harder to do that if newspapers and others cannot refer to his past without fear of the ruling of some anonymous judge being brought into play.
Critical as I often am of newspapers, it is not difficult to make the case that they have themselves to blame for the wrath of judges tired of hearing that the pursuit of celebrity tittle tattle is in the public interest. However, this is ridiculous. The FT editorial on the subject this morning says that superinjunctions are a menace to democracy and should be scrapped.
I agree with that, and agree too that the way this area of the law has developed has been haphazard. Eccentric might be another word. It will only be resolved through Parliament taking a fresh look at privacy, and getting the balance right in a way that most newspapers and most judges appear unable to.
This superinjunction sounds ridiculous. And there is even a ban on any mention that a court order even exists!
I think this is all about gagging the media by high profile rich people and big corporations. Certainly it is not about the freedom of speech!
Questions must be asked about the use of this measure.
But there must, of course, be a balance between free speech and right to reputation. Yet rich and powerful must not be allowed to curtail free speech.
Weakening libel law might encourage tabloids to trash even more reputations. But reframing of the law is needed to deal with the internet.
Libel law should not be used to inhabit free discussion of matters of public interest. And individuals should be able to obtain reliable information on issues of public concern.
If he is so keen on preventing references to his former role presumably he will be handing his knighthood back as well which he received for his ‘services’ to b*****g.
Historical Revisionism? For the impact and implications of actions to be studied and learned, one must first accept that they happened. Denial can be no defense for deliberate misdeeds.
I’m now curious regarding how these injunctions work. Sir Fred goes to court and gets the injunction. Does a notice then go to every paper, TV channel (before we even get started on bloggers etc) telling them that they can no longer refer to Sir Fred as a *anker?
…and his seven figure pension?
One of the problems with super-injunctions is that by definition, people don’t know what they’re really about. So it’s impossible to have a sensible debate about whether they’re in the public interest/a menace to democracy or otherwise.
I can see how there might be *a* role for them: they prevent a newspaper from complaining that they have been banned from publishing a story about some person, and by complaining effectively traducing that person almost as badly as the banned story. And newspapers have a history of claiming that they represent democracy/the public interest when they’re simply muck raking (Max Moseley springs to mind).
But the alleged terms of this injunction do sound absurd. I wonder what it’s *really* about.
Is there a super injunction against anyone calling him a wanker?
Blogs couldn’t give twos about super injunctions, and if Freddie wants to go after them, it’ll clogg the court system. And if all the media ignores it, same again – they can all refuse to pay damages, and take it to a higher court, and let it run a decade or two, until Freddie snuffs it after he falls off his yacht going for a pizzle into the sea in the middle of the night.
Hang on, who were we talking about again?
OOPS! It has just struck me, foot in mouth.
Apologies Alastair, for my last post, I referred to someone between the lines you knew well. Only realised afterwards when I remembered you worked for the DM, the one without the blue top, that is.
Please ignore and not post if it offends in any way. I think I was thinking of the sons more, though I have no clue what happened there either afterwards.
Sorry Alastair on my comment referring to a past friend.
It only clicked after I posted it and checked, on wiki and elsewhere.
Please ignore the comments.
It shows I need to read your autobiography.
So sorry that you did not have the balls to print my previous note. Your achilles is exposed. Let me try again:
If Dr Kelly had been able to obtain a superinjunction would he be alive today?
It was all a feck head time, as far as I am concerned.Live and learn.