The news this morning reported that Lord McAlpine is seeking financial settlement with every twitter user who named him, in the context of his utterly immoral and outrageous behaviour,
that of being the party treasurer who helped to get Margaret Thatcher elected.
Sorry, I mean… who named him as a child abuser in the context of the Newsnight programme which suggested that he was the top Tory named by an abuse survivor in North Wales.
The programme itself did not name him.
The abuse victim explained, after the event, that the Police had shown him a picture of someone they named as Lord McAlpine. Since seeing McAlpine’s actual photo and apologising to the Tory Grandee, McAlpine has expressed his deep sympathy for the victim, whilst seeking to sue every individual outlet that named him…
So I am a little confused as to why that doesn’t include the police who framed him in the first place?
The lawyer seems confident that all those who named McAlpine on twitter will be found and sued if they do not reach a settlement, just as the BBC and other mainstream media are being asked (and will comply) to settle and make a public apology.
So where does this leave us in terms of the boundaries of free speech, conjecture, reasonable comment and the social media?
You may note I have named McAlpine on here, several times,
but not mentioned the name of the abuse victim…(that’s just the way I feel, there are no laws against me naming him and describing the awful events that befell him)
The law says I can describe these past events and include his name but not repeat any assertion that McAlpine was a child abuser… Yet a search with the terms of those last five words would surely pull up my new blogpost as making exactly that assertion.
I only mention this as it neatly illustrates the minefield of context that the original Newsnight programme foolishly decided to try and skirt around rather than do any responsible journalistic investigation or contact the accused in advance.
Those tweeters who merely repeated the name however, have a far trickier position for the McAlpine lawyers to attack.
Yes, tweeting represents/is broadcasting, and the laws regarding which aspects must apply to twitter have been rehearsed in the Robin Hood airport joke and other twitter trials. The context is everything isn’t it..?
If, on the evening of the Newsnight programme, @piersmorgan had tweeted the one word, “McAlpine” I suspect he would have been in the lawyers sights and those lawyers would have been aided in their pursuit of the Piers monster by the majority of the population who despise the man…
If however, Fred Nomates, had (re)tweeted, “It’s Lord McAlpine” to his 3 followers and had only done so today, long after the story had gone past its “peak of arc”, I am sure he would have nothing to worry about in terms of legal action…
So where, Mr McAlpine’s lawyers, are you going to go in pursuit of those many silly twitterers who did indeed retweet your client’s name, but with no context of describing what he had done? I for one was not even tempted to google names, seeing it as a mugs voyeuristic game and likely to end in tears.
But will you pursue me for saying that, the Lord is an over privileged horse’s ass who “karmically” deserves all the trouble this incident has landed upon his privileged Tory money grabbing life…(along with every other Tory party treasurer that has ever lived)? Because there have been many, many people without access to sympathetic ears or money, who have had far worse things done unto them in the name of the privileged retaining their rights, and I am not hypocritical enough to cease to criticise the Tory elderly because they are sick and have had a run of bad luck…