On 5 May 2020 Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist who advised on the UK coronavirus lockdown, quit as a government adviser after the  Daily Telegraph exposed him flouting the rules by receiving visits from his lover at his home. Many on Twitter suggested it was an unwarranted breach of privacy.

Observer writer Carole Cadwalladr said:

“Solidarity to @neil_ferguson. He’s not a politician. He’s a scientist. Who’s had his privacy invaded by a newspaper with a pretty clear political agenda. Any country that fails to defend its scientists from political interference frankly doesn’t deserve them.”

The Press Gazette had a piece. The news was widely covered by the national press, including The Guardian, the BBC and Sky News.

On 7 May 2020 the Press Gazette had a piece on technology website The Register winning a libel payout from a computer sales chief executive who accused it of publishing “fake news”. According to court documents, Aria Taheri defamed Register UK editor Paul Kunert and reporter Gareth Corfield with a series of highly defamatory Twitter messages, articles and a paid-for Google advert.

All  the Courts’ updates on the Coronavirus guidance can be found on the Courts and Tribunal Judiciary

Hacked off had a press release “Hacked Off research reveals extent of relentless intrusion on singer Jesy Nelson”.

Internet and Social Media

Facebook has announced the members of its new oversight board, an international committee of judges, journalists and academics who will help steer the company’s policy on freedom of expression.

First proposed by Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, the oversight board is Facebook’s attempt to extricate itself from the uncomfortable position of ruling on free speech issues around the world. The board will arbitrate difficult decisions about content moderation, based both on appeals from users, and self-referrals from Facebook itself. The Guardian had a piece.

The Press Gazette had a piece “YouTube broadcasts Covid-19 conspiracies to millions: Press Gazette probe prompts removal of videos after weeks online”.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

The ICO’s website had a “Statement in response to media enquiries about the Data Protection Impact Assessment for the NHSX’s trial of contact tracing app”.

The European Data Protection Board (“EDPB”) adopted an updated version of its guidelines on consent (Guidelines 05/2020 on consent under Regulation 2016/679). These revised guidelines clarified some important points related to the conditionality of consent and the unambiguous indication of wishes. DLA Piper Privacy Matters had a post.

Byline Times had a piece “Vote Leave Firm Tied to Cambridge Analytica ‘Configured’ NHSX Contact Tracing App”.

A Dutch privacy regulator said it would investigate how short video app Tiktok handles the data of teenagers and children on the platform. The move comes amid growing U.S. scrutiny of the app, which allows users to create and share short videos of themselves with millions of people worldwide.

The company, which introduced parental controls last month, said it was cooperating with Dutch authorities. Reuters had a piece.

The Guardian had a piece “UK contact-tracing app could fall foul of privacy law, government told”.


Reuters had a piece “Countries must return to public health surveillance in COVID-19 fight: WHO’s Ryan”.

The Sunday Times had a piece “Coronavirus tracker app could put Britons under permanent surveillance, warn Tory rebels”.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

In its submission to an inquiry on the future of journalism run by the House of Lords Committee on Communications and Digital, ITN called for social platforms to give preferential advertising rates to public service broadcasters and other quality publishers, and for the UK government to impose “strong sanctions” on social platforms that do not take stringent measures to remove fake news.

Peers launched the inquiry in February to look at how journalists can be supported to adapt to the changing news media landscape, how they can become more trusted by the public, and whether public policy could better support journalism training. The Press Gazette had a piece.


IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:

00857-20 Hayden v The Spectator, 1 Accuracy (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), No breach: after investigation

00606-20 Clough v Evening Telegraph (Dundee), 1 Accuracy (2019), No breach- after investigation

00579-20 Westmorland v kentlive.news, 1 Accuracy (2019), No breach: after investigation

00285-20 Ratcliffe v kentlive.news, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2019), 5 Reporting suicide (2019), No breach- after investigation

00042-20 McAnena v mirror.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2019), 12 Discrimination (2019), Breach- sanction: action as offered by publication

00026-20 Fleet v Plymouth Herald, 2 Privacy (2019), 1 Accuracy (2019), 12 Discrimination (2019), 14 Confidential sources (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), No breach- after investigation

09739-19 Scott v thescottishsun.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2019). Breach- sanction: action as offered by publication

09597-19 Bremner v The Scotsman, 1 Accuracy (2019), Breach- sanction: action as offered by publication09539-19 A Woman v Hull Daily Mail, 2 Privacy (2019), 6 Children (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), Breach- sanction: publication of adjudication

09155-19 Brown v thesundaytimes.co.uk,  1 Accuracy (2019), No breach- after investigation

07966-19 Water UK v The Times,1 Accuracy (2019), Breach- sanction: publication of correction

Statements in Open Court

On 7 May 2020 there was a statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Situation Publishing v Aria Technology.  There was a report on the 5RB website.

Last Week in the Courts

On 5 May 2020 the Court of Appeal gave permission to appeal in the case of Wright v Granath.

The trial of the data protection case of Greystoke v Financial Conduct Authority which was due to take place on 6 May 2020 was settled.

On 6 May 2020 the  Court of Appeal (Flaux, Popplewell and Dingemans LJJ) heard the appeal  in the case of Wright v Ver.  Judgment was reserved.

On 6 and 7 May 2020 there was a hearing in the breach of confidence and misuse of private information case of Barclay v Barclay before Warby J.

On 7 May 2020 Warby J handed down judgment in the newspaper harassment and data protection case of  Sube & Anor v News Group Newspapers Ltd & Anor [2020] EWHC 1125 (QB).  There was a news report on the 5RB website.

On the same day Jay J heard a preliminary issue on meaning in the case of Riley and Oberman v Heybroek (adjourned from 28 April 2020).  Judgment was reserved.


The 2020, 5RB Conference has been postponed until 2021.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions


Alice Voigt, a member of Rose Bay Community group has been taken to court by Goldberg, a member of a rival community, over a November 2018 post in which she alleged Goldberg was “intimidating, bullying and threatening” women on the group. Alice was ordered to pay the administrator of a rival Facebook group $35,000 in damages for defamation. The Guardian had a piece.

The Sydney Morning Herald had a piece “Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial delayed”.


CBC had a piece “Former SAO accused of fraud files $2.57 million defamation lawsuit against Norman Wells”.


The Madras High Court made observations regarding the role of the higher judiciary in safeguarding the freedom of press, while quashing defamation proceedings initiated against journalist Sandhya Ravishankar for articles published by The Economic Times on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu back in 2015. The National Herald India had an article.


A High Court judge has refused an application by Eir to halt a legal action by one of its customers over alleged breach of its obligations under the Data Protection Acts, however he struck out a further claim by Michael Burke alleging he was defamed by Eir in an email sent to communications regulator ComReg on March 6th 2015. This part of his claim was “hopelessly” outside the applicable time limits for defamation proceedings, he said. The Irish Times had a piece.


The Press Gazette had an article “Filipino government shuts down major news network during pandemic

United States

A Pennsylvania hobby company filed a defamation lawsuit accusing Mattel, Rubik’s Brand, Velcro and four other companies of falsely claiming it sold counterfeit products, causing Amazon.com to remove it from its online platform. Reuters had a piece.

The Hollywood Reporter had an article “Wisconsin TV Station Pushes for Swift End to Trump’s Lawsuit Over Political Ad”.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

On 14 May 2020 the Court of Appeal will hand down judgment in the case of ZXC v Bloomberg.


The following reserved judgments after public hearings in media law cases are outstanding:

Riley and Oberman v Heybroek, heard 28 April and 7 May 2020 (Jay J)

Wright v Ver, heard 6 May 2020 (Flaux, Popplewell and Dingemans LJJ)

Notting Hill Genesis v Ali., heard 22 April 2020 (Nicol J)

Tinkler v Ferguson & ors, heard 31 March and 1 April 2020 (Nicklin J)

Aven v Orbis Business Intelligence, heard 16 to 19 March 2020 (Warby J)

Serafin v Malkiewicz, heard 17 and 18 March 2020 (UKSC)

JQL v NTP, heard 17 to 20 March 2020 (HHJ Lewis, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge).

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.


The Coronavirus lockdown is an ideal time for Inforrm readers to compose all those blog posts they have been thinking about for many months but been too busy to write.  This is an ideal opportunity to keep in touch with the media law world.  We can be contacted at inforrmeditorial@gmail.com