On 2 November 2020, Nicol J handed down judgment in Depp v News Group Newspapers ( EWHC 2911 (QB)). He held that the allegations against Mr Depp in the newspaper article which labelled him a “wife beater” were substantially true and that his claim for libel therefore failed.
The Judge concluded that, while not all of the allegations of violence by Mr Depp towards Ms Heard were proven, the Defendant had established that the words complained of in their natural and ordinary meaning were substantially true and stated that “the claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel.”
In his judgment, Nicol J said that
“although he [the claimant] has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true. I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account.” 
On 6 November 2020 Mr Depp posted a statement on Instagram post in which he told his supporters that he had been asked to resign by Warner Bros from his role in Fantastic Beasts and he has “respected and agreed to that request”. He went on to say
“The surreal judgment of the court in the UK will not change my right to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal. My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false”.
There was a report in the Press Gazette.
In the disputes between Aaron Banks and Carole Cadwalladr, on 6 November 2020 the Guardian and Observer journalist in a statement on Twitter said she accepted one of her tweets was false and had deleted it. She said: “On 22 Oct 2020, I tweeted that Arron had been found to have broken the law. I accept he has not. I regret making this false statement, which I have deleted. I undertake not to repeat it. I apologise to Arron for the upset and distress caused.” The Press Gazette had a piece.
The Presidential election in the USA has raised more issues regarding the spread of misinformation. President Donald Trump and his allies flooded social media with false claims of victory and unsupported allegations of voter fraud. Social media companies warned users the presidential election had yet to be decided. The news received wide international coverage including Reuters and The Guardian.
It has been reported that Peter McCormack is abandoning his defence of a libel claim brought by Craig Wright. It appears that judgment has not, however, been entered.
As usual, updates on the Coronavirus guidance can be found on the Courts and Tribunal Judiciary.
Internet and Social Media
The Society of Editors has welcomed an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service and a statement recognising the status of journalists and the right to carry out their work following obstructions at anti-lockdown protests on Thursday night. Journalists and photographers were told by officers at the event that they were not seen as essential workers and needed special permission from the Met Police to be present. The Society of Editors had a piece.
Twitter banned former Trump adviser Steve Bannon after falling foul of Twitter rules with ‘heads on pikes’ comments. The Guardian had a piece.
The Press Gazette had a piece “US election round-up: Tech platforms intervene over Trump victory declaration”.
Twitter removed the account of British conspiracy theorist David Icke after he violated the platform’s rules on coronavirus misinformation. The Press Gazette had a piece.
The Guardian had a piece “TikTok: false posts about US election reach hundreds of thousands”.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The ICO had a blog post “ICO regulatory sandbox”.
A recent request to the ICO under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) has revealed that, from the available data, of the 21705 personal data breaches notified to the ICO since May 2018, 14,365 were notified within 72 hours, and 7340 were not – meaning that approximately one third of personal data breaches are reported later than within 72 hours.
Where a breach has occurred, Article 33 requires data controllers to notify the fact to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) without undue delay, and within 72 hours “where feasible” (unless it doesn’t meet the “risk” threshold for notification, as described elsewhere in Article 33). Mishcon de Reya Data Matters had a piece.
The Irish Times had a piece “Data-protection compliance start-up Dataships raises €500,000”.
EC Europa had a press release “Commission introduces surveillance of imports of bioethanol, and remains open to examining requests from other sectors”.
Security Magazine had a piece “The lurking security risks of surveillance capitalism”.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Hacked off had a post “IPSO shirks responsibility for false newspaper stories’ circulation on extremist forums: rebuttal”.
IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:
- 12281-20 A woman v The Mail (Cumbria), 1 Accuracy (2019), 9 Reporting of crime (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 10972-20 Khan v birminghammail.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 07814-20 Hammans v Telegraph.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2019), Resolved – directly with publication
Statements in Open Court
There was statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Sakho & anr v World Anti Doping Agency before Nicklin J on 4 November 2020. There was a news item about the statement on the 5RB website and on Inside Croydon.
Last Week in the Courts
As already mentioned, Nicol J handed down judgment in the case of Depp v NGN  EWHC 2911 (QB)) on 2 November 2020.
On the same day, Collins-Rice J handed down judgment in the case of Haji-Ioannou v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  EWHC 2922 (QB). The judge held that the words complained of were opinion and were not defamatory at common law. There was a news report on City AM.
The trial in the privacy case of Sicri v Associated Newspapers took place before Warby J on 2, 3 and 6 November 2020. Judgment was reserved. There was a news report about the case on the BBC website.
On 6 November 2020 Tipples J handed down judgment in the case of Greenstein v Campaign Against Antisemitism  EWHC 2951 (QB). Summary judgment was granted on the honest opinion defence. There was a report in the Jewish Chronicle.
On the same day Saini J handed down judgment in the case of Qatar Airways v Middle East News, heard 14 to 16 October 2020. The judge held that Qatar Airways’ claims against the Al Arabiya news channel relating to a video simulation published in August 2017 which purported to explain the effect of the illegal blockade on Qatar and Qatar Airways could proceed. There was a press release about the decision.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the case of Sarina & Anor v O’Shannassy (No.5)  FCCA 2911 Manousaridis J held that an email sent by the company secretary of a company to the two directors of the company conveyed defamatory imputations of two of the shareholders of the company but that the defence of “triviality” succeeded (see Defamation Act 2005, s.33).
The National law Review had a piece “Australian Privacy Act Under Review”
In the case of Lethbridge and District Pro-Life Association v Lethbridge (City), 2020 ABQB 654 M David Gates J found that the City’s decision to ban a number of anti-abortion advertisements was unreasonable. There was a piece on Global News.
The lawyer for Gerald Stanley, area farmer acquitted in the shooting death of Colten Boushie in 2018, is alleging he was forced out of a prominent Saskatoon law firm after a “social media firestorm” around a proposed book on Stanley. Scott Spencer made the allegations in an eight-page statement of claim against law firm Robertson Stromberg filed at Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon. The claim alleges that the partners wanted to “scapegoat Spencer and the junior lawyer [who worked at the firm] with a view to protecting the firm’s reputation.” Spencer is seeking general and specific damages. CBC had a piece.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had an alert “Nigeria journalist Oga Tom Uhia detained for weeks on defamation complaint”.
The Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill has passed stage one at Holyrood. The purpose of the bill is to clarify and strengthen the statutory underpinning of defamation in Scots law. The bill seeks to do this by placing certain key elements of common law on defamation on a statutory basis. The bill will also replace and restate, in one place, elements of the existing statutory provisions in Scots law. Scottish Legal News had a piece.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan has held that the US Government cannot take over the defence of the libel claim against President Trump brought by E Jean Carroll. Kaplan’s 61-page opinion permits the suit brought by Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s, to continue in federal court
A judge in California dismissed the defamation suit against Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The lawsuit was filed by Michael Sanchez —the brother of Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez — and claimed Bezos falsely accused Sanchez of leaking nude photographs of Bezos to the National Enquirer. The lawsuit, which has become a months-long legal battle, was thrown out on Thursday when Judge John P. Doyle, of Los Angeles County Superior Court, said the case was based on hearsay and lacked admissible evidence, according to The Wall Street Journal. There was a piece on Insider and Bloomberg.
In the case of Li v. Zeng the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that it is not libel to defame a pseudonymous chat group user as long as the person’s true identity is unknown to the audience. There was a piece on the Volokh Conspiracy blog,
Research and Resources
- Data Protection from the Lens of the World: A Comparative Analysis of World Laws, Rahul Kumar, Uttaranchal University.
- Mapping Power and Jurisdiction on the Internet Through the Lens of Government-Led Surveillance, Internet Policy Review, 9(3), 2020, DOI: 10.14763/2020.3.1497, Oskar Josef Gstrein, University of Groningen – Campus Fryslân; Europa-Institut, Saarland University.
- Living with the Algorithm – Toward a New Social Contract in the Age of AI, Aurora Dell’Elce, IE University – IE Law School; IE University, Students, Jimena López-Navarro Hochschild, IE University, IE Law School, Aleksandra Smajević, IE Law school, Argyri Panezi, IE Law School; Stanford PACS Center, Digital Civil Society Lab, Pablo Garcia Mexia.
- Inescapable Surveillance, Cornell Law Review, Forthcoming, Matthew Tokson, University of Utah – S.J. Quinney College of Law.
- Transnational Collective Actions for Cross-Border Data Protection Violations, (2020) Internet Policy Review, 9(3). DOI: 10.14763/2020.3.1498, Federica Casarosa, European University Institute – Centre for Judicial Cooperation
Next Week in the Courts
On 9 November 2020, Nicklin J will hear an application in the case of Wan-Bissaka & anr v Bentley.
On 10 November 2020, Nicol J will hear the trial in the case of Soriano v Societe D’Exploitation De L’Hebdomadaire Le Point. S.A
The following reserved judgments after public hearing in media law cases are outstanding:
Nwakamma v Umeyor, heard 13 to 16 July 2020 (HHJ Lewis)
Onwude v Dyer, heard 6-8 October 2020 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Wright v Granath, heard 15 October 2020 (Moylan, Singh and Popplewell LJJ)
Sicri v Associated Newspapers, heard 2, 3 and 6 November 2020 (Warby J).
Please let us know if there are other reserved judgments which we should be listing.
This Round Up was compiled by Nataly Tedone who is a media and entertainment paralegal.