On 6 December 2019, following a four-day defamation trial at a federal court in Los Angeles, a jury has found in favour of Elon Musk, ruling that he did not defame a British caver Vernon Unsworth, who helped in last year’s rescue of trapped Thai schoolboys by calling him a “pedo guy”. There was an INFORRM post on the case.
Mark Stephens, one of Mr Unsworth’s lawyer told the Mirror on 7 December 2019 that the jury indicated that they had decided that Mr Musk had not defamed Mr Unsworth because Tesla’s CEO had not specifically named his client in the tweet. He also added he planned to file documents for a new trial by Christmas. There was a piece on The Media Hq.
The Scottish Government has published the Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill [pdf]. This include a “serious harm” threshold, a prohibition on public authorities bringing proceedings and a number of provisions which appear to mirror the English Defamation Act 2013. There is a “Policy Memorandum [pdf]” accompanying the Bill. There was a piece in Holyrood and an article in the Scottish Legal News
On 6 December 2019 the social media site Reddit posted that the leaked documents detailing UK-US trade talks, including the future of the NHS were likely posted on Reddit by an account linked to a campaign “originating from Russia”. Britain’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Nicky Morgan in a BBC Radio 4 interview on the 7 December 2019 said “if that is the case, that obviously is extremely serious. And actually as culture secretary, obviously one of the things that we are looking for and monitoring is any interference in our elections.” The news was widely covered by the national press, including the BBC, The Guardian, Sky News and Reuters.
Internet and Social Media
On 6 December 2019 Time had a piece on the report by NATO-affiliated researchers who said they were easily able to buy tens of thousands of likes, comments and views on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Even after researchers at the NATO Strategic Command Centre of Excellence flagged them up as fake, the social media companies failed to take them down immediately showing they failure in promptly stopping manipulated activity.
Facebook has removed Conservative Party’s adverts featuring “distorted” BBC footage of some of its top journalists reporting on Brexit, including political editor Laura Kuenssberg. The paid- for adverts were taken down because they breached the BBC’s intellectual property. There was a piece on the Press Gazette.
The Press Gazette reported that Google followed the same response by taking down the Conservative Party’s adverts on its video sharing platform Youtube.
The LSE Media Policy Blog had a post “Dealing with digital dominance”.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The European Data Protection Board had a news piece on the “Sixteenth EDPB Plenary Session”.
The ICO had a news on the launch of a campaign to contact all registered companies in the UK reminding them of their legal responsibility to pay a data protection fee. Under the Data Protection Act 2018 organisations processing personal information are required to pay a data protection fee unless they are exempt. Mishcon de Reya Data Matters had a post.
Charles Russell Speechlys had an article “Data Protection and Privacy: Is the consent model broken?”.
According to a report from IHS Markit, there will be one billion surveillance cameras around the world by 2021, more than half of which will be in China. The Americas are next in line, accounting for 18% of all installed surveillance cameras, and Asia, excluding China, accounted for 15%, the report said. Driven by growth in developing countries like India, Brazil and Indonesia these countries are expected to surpass Japan and the U.K. to join China and the U.S. as the top five largest markets for installed surveillance cameras. There was a piece on CNBC.
The Guardian had an article “ How do I protect my online privacy from ‘surveillance capitalism’?”.
Chinese citizens now have to have their faces scanned when registering new mobile phone services, as the authorities seek to verify the identities of all Internet users. The city of Zhengzhou became the first in the country to introduce facial recognition to its metro system, meaning travellers will be able to pay for journeys just by having their faces scanned. There was an article on the BBC and a post on the Privacy International Blog.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Forbes had a piece “Fox, NBC, CNN All Hit With High-Profile Lawsuits”.
The Guardian had a piece on Ofcom clearing Channel 4 of bias by rejecting a complaint from the Conservative Party about the News climate debate, which replaced Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture after he refused to take part.
On the 6 December 2016 Channel 4 News has issued an apology after a subtitling error wrongly claimed Boris Johnson had discussed whether “people of colour” should be allowed into the UK, in reality, Johnson said he was in favour of having “people of talent” come to the UK, and did not discuss race. There was a piece in the Guardian.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee has ordered the Jewish Chronicle to publish a 1,300-word adjudication after it failed to produce evidence to support claims it made about a Labour activist. The Press Gazette had a piece.
IPSO has published tworulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:
- 06211-19 Mackenzie v Press & Journal, 1 Accuracy (2018), Breach- sanction: action as offered by publication
- 03164-19 Walker & Thompson v Hull Daily Mail, 3 Harassment (2018), 1 Accuracy (2018), 2 Privacy (2018), No breach- after investigation
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court in the past week.
Last Week in the Courts
On 3 and 4 December 2019, Whipple J heard a PTR in the case of Feyziyev v The Journalism Development Network Association & anr. Judgment was given on Friday 6 December 2019. [Update] The claimant’s application to strike out the defence of truth and/or for summary judgment was dismissed. The judgment is available at  EWHC 3372 (QB).
On 4 December 2019, Saini J heard the trial of a preliminary issue as to meaning in the case of Banks v Cadwalladr, the claim by Brexiteer Aaron Banks against journalist Carol Cadwalladr. Judgment was reserved. There was a piece on the Press Gazette.
On 5 December 2019 Warby J heard the trial of preliminary issues in the case of Triplark v Northwood Hall & Ors.. Judgment was reserved.
On the same day Jay J heard the trial in the case of Triaster Ltd v Dun & Bradstreet Ltd. The court considered meaning, whether the statement is defamatory at common law and whether it was fact or opinion. Judgment was reserved.
On 6 December 2019 Warby J heard an application in the case of United Kingdom Independence Party Ltd v Braine & Ors. Judgment was reserved.
6 February 2020, 5RB Manchester half day conference, Manchester Art Gallery.
Please let us know if you have any events which you would like to be listed.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Actor John Jarratt has launched a second defamation lawsuit against the Sunday Telegraph over its reporting of rape allegations against him. Jarratt originally sued the Telegraph over a front-page story detailing allegations by a former housemate, but dropped the lawsuit after he was found not guilty of rape.
On 22 November he filed a fresh lawsuit in the federal court and in the court papers Jarratt says a separate article the Telegraph published on 7 July reporting the reaction of his accuser to the not guilty verdict conveyed imputations including that he “is a rapist” and “got away with rape”. The Guardian had a piece.
A woman in Queensland, victim of domestic violence will receive compensation after her details were accessed and leaked by a police officer, after the state’s police service was refused leave to appeal an earlier ruling. There was a news report in The Guardian.
Tony Robbins, a leading life coach, brought his suit last week against BuzzFeed, which has published allegations of sexual misconduct against him. With just 0.5 per cent of BuzzFeed’s 40 million monthly clicks deriving from Ireland, press freedom campaigners say the case is the latest example of the world’s wealthy exploiting the country’s claimant-friendly defamation laws to silence their critics. The Irish Times had a piece.
[Update] The Irish Examiner reports that a couple who claimed that they had been defamed by staff who asked them to pay a dinner bill at Dublin restaurant have lost their defamation claim.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, testified in a libel lawsuit filed by a former employee at the Prime Minister’s Residence against associates of the premier, and claimed she was the “most vilified person on Israeli media.” The civil suit was filed by the former caretaker at the residence, who in a separate 2017 case successfully sued Sara Netanyahu for verbal and emotional abuse. The Times of Israel had an article.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal filed her suit against Fox News in the Supreme Court of the state of New York. McDougal claims that host Tucker Carlson defamed her on his show by falsely claiming that she tried to blackmail Donald Trump about the affair she says they had before he was elected president. NBC News had an article.
The BBC had a piece “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.
The Lusaka High Court has entered judgment in default against a member of Parliament, Tutwa Ngulube, in a defamation case brought by the president of the Law Association of Zambia president, Eddie Mwitwa.
Research and Resources
- Data Protection, Anonymity and Courts, 26 (2) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 183 (2019), Michal Bobek, Independent.
- Consent as a Free Pass: Platform Power and the Limits of the Informational Turn, Pace Law Review, Forthcoming, Elettra Bietti, Harvard University, Law School.
- Privacy and Data Protection Concerns Regarding the Use of Blockchains in Smart Cities, Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, 2019, Luis Felipe Ramos, University of Minho, João Marco Silva, University of Minho.
- Pragmatism and Privacy, 5 New York University Journal of Law & Liberty 638, 639 (2010), Amy L. Peikoff, Independent.
- Brief of the Center for the Legalization of Privacy as Amicus Curiae in Opposition to Consent Motion, United States v. Facebook, Amy L. Peikoff, Independent.
- The Entitative Nature of Artificial Intelligence in International Law: An Analytic Legal Model, SOLAIR Conference 2019, Institute of Law, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Nove Mesto, Abhivardhan , Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence and Law; Alexis Research, Alexis Foundation; Amity University, Lucknow Campus, Students.
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 9 December 2019 there will be a statement in open court in the case of Turvey v Finders Genealogists before Jay J.
[Update] On Tuesday 10 December 2019, Nicol J will hear the trial in the case of Elphicke MP v Times Newspapers Limited
On 11 December 2019, Nicklin J will hear the trial of preliminary issues on meaning and opinion in the case of Riley v Sivier.
On 12 December 2019 there will be an application in the case of Wright v Granath before Jay J.
On 12 December 2019 there will be a trial in case of Onwude v Dyer & Ors. The claim is by a litigant in person in relation to an article in the BMJ on 22 December 2016. The claim form and particulars of claim are available on Lawtel [£]. The trial is listed for 3 days
The following reserved judgments after public hearings in media law cases are outstanding:
W M Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants, heard 6 and 7 November 2019 (Lady Hale and Lords Reed, Kerr, Hodge and Lloyd-Jones)
Turley v Unite the Union, heard 11 to 15 and 19 November 2019 (Nicklin J)
Kirkegaard v Smith, heard 26 November 2019 (Julian Knowles J).
Banks v Cadwalladr, heard 4 December 2019 (Saini J)
Triplark v Northwood Hall & Ors, heard 5 December 2019 (Warby J)
Triaster Ltd v Dun & Bradstreet Ltd, heard 5 December 2019 (Jay J).
United Kingdom Independence Party Ltd v Braine & Ors, 6 December 2019 (Warby J).
Please let us know if there are other reserved judgments which should be added to this list.
This Round Up was compiled by Nataly Tedone who is a media and entertainment paralegal.