The Telegraph has suspended cartoonist Bob Moran following a tweet he made targeting an NHS doctor. Moran encouraged his followers to publicly abuse a palliative care doctor who posted about wearing masks on public transport to stop the spread of COVID-19. Doctor Rachel Clarke reported the tweet to the police and has threatened to sue Moran for defamation.
The leader and deputy leader of the far-right organisation Britain First have agreed to pay “substantial damages” to settle a libel claim after they falsely alleged that the Halal Food Authority and its two employees were involved in funding terrorism.
UK journalist Oliver Bullough is being sued for defamation in Portugal by the vice-president of Angola. Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World professes to examine the hidden world of global kleptocrats. Bornito de Sousa Baltazar Diogo and his daughter, Naulila Diogo, are thought to take issue with the 8-pages of the book dedicated to Naulila, who spent $200,000 on wedding dresses when she appeared on the US reality TV show, Say Yes to the Dress, in 2015. Bullough details the criticism this incident received in Angola, where more than half the people live in poverty. The total value of the claim is more than €500,000 and has been filed as a civil case, although defamation remains a criminal offence in Portugal.
The latest statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that applications for privacy injunctions have fallen since last year. In the first six months of 2021, there were three applications, down from ten in 2020. We had a piece on this.
The UK government has published its response to the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry report into the UK Economics of Music Streaming, which investigated the impact of music streaming on artists remuneration, as well as other issues around the fairness and sustainability of the wider music industry. The Committee set out a number of recommendations that included equitable remuneration for streaming, contract adjustment as well as referrals to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). The content of the Government’s response is summarised by IP Kat here.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
Mr Andrew Prismall is bringing a representative action on behalf of approximately 1.6 million individuals whose confidential medical records were obtained by Google and DeepMind Technologies in breach of data protection laws. The claim alleges that Google and DeepMind entered into an arrangement in 2015 with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust under which confidential medical records were obtained without consent. Mishcon de Reya has more information here.
Epic Games, the video game developer, has announced it will offer its parent verification services for free for all developers in order to facilitate the design of games that better protect children’s privacy and safety.
The Mayor of London’s office has approved a £3 million investment into new facial recognition technologies (FRT) that will greatly increase the surveillance capabilities of the Metropolitan Police. The expansion of the Met’s technology will enable it to process historic images from CCTV feeds, social media and other sources in order to track down suspects. Concerns have been raised regarding the impact of FRT on privacy and existing racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. The UK’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC), Professor Fraser Sampson, has acknowledged that some FRT “are so ethically fraught” that it may only be appropriate to carry them out under license in the future.
The checking of vaccine passports in Scotland and Wales began this week. Big Brother Watch published an opinion piece warning that the imposition of these schemes could reorganise Britain into a two-tier, checkpoint society. The English government has not yet committed to such a regime. The ICO has emphasised that data protection laws will not stand in the way of mandatory vaccination and COVID status checks, but rather facilitate responsible sharing of personal data where it is necessary to protect public health.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolution statements since our last Round Up:
- 06462-21 Benwell v plymouthherald.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2021), 9 Reporting of a crime (2021), Breach – sanction: action as offered by publication
- 03211-21 Brown v The Courier, 1 Accuracy (2021) Breach – sanction: publication of correction
- 01887-21 Rahnama v The Mail on Sunday, 2 Privacy (2021), No breach – after investigation
New Issued Cases
There were 10 new cases issued in the Media and Communications List between 27 September and 4 October 2021: 6 data protection cases, 2 defamation cases and 2 Norwich Pharmacal applications.
Last Week in the Courts
On 30 September 2021 judgment was handed down in Kate Wilson v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and National Police Chief’s Council  UKIPTrib IPT/11/167/H. The case concerned the undercover officer Mark Kennedy, who entered into a sexual relationship with the Claimant. The Defendants admitted that the sexual relationship constituted a gross violation of the Claimant’s right to respect for her private and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the ECHR; it was neither necessary nor proportionate; it was one of the most substantial and gravest interferences of its kind; it invaded the core of her private life; it was an abuse of trust of the highest order. The defendants also admitted that MK’s actions in conducting a sexual relationship with the Claimant as a means of obtaining intelligence constituted an unlawful interference with the Claimant’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10. The defendants denied the gravity and extent of the infringement of those rights – denying that more senior officers knew or acquiesced to the relationship. It was also denied that there had been a breach of Articles 14 (freedom from discrimination) and 11 (freedom of association). The Investigatory Powers Tribunal found for the Claimant on almost every issue. Blackstone Chambers had a piece on the judgement.
On 18 October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights, in collaboration with Japan and US consulate generals in Strasbourg, the René Cassin Foundation and Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, are hosting a hybrid symposium on Human Rights in the Digital Sphere. The programme can be accessed here, and the registration is available via this link.
On 21 October 2021, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression are holding an online event, “Courts and Global Norms on Freedom of Expression” (2.00 pm to 5.00pm, BST)
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Public figures are expected to turn off Facebook comments on certain posts following the High Court ruling that media outlets were responsible for readers’ comments last month. CNN has already disabled its Facebook page in Australia as a result of the ruling.
Former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial has been delayed until 1 November, but further delays are expected as his barristers request that the trial is moved to another city for security reasons. Roberts-Smith is suing the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times for defamation relating to a series of reports published in 2018 that alleged he committed war crimes.
Closing submissions in broadcaster Erin Molan’s case against the Daily Mail debated whether saying racist things makes someone a racist. The Daily Mail are relying on a truth defence to their allegations that Molan is a racist, pointing to a “plethora of things (the defence) would say add up to racism.” Molan asserts that she wasn’t mocking Pacific Islander names when she uttered “hooka looka mooka hooka fooka” because mocking involves cruelty. Federal Court Justice Robert Bromwich admitted in court that his own white privilege means he is “quite challenged” by this case, which asks him to rule on what defines racism.
Craig Xu examined the News Media Bargaining Code one year after it was introduced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for Inforrm here.
An application to halt the certification hearing of the two groups seeking to advance class proceedings on behalf of six million Canadians affected by a cyber-attack, and subsequent privacy breach, on Capital One Bank in March 2019, has been dismissed. The claim will continue to certification.
The car manufacturer Tesla is reportedly suing two former customers in China for defamation over comments they made about the brand. According to the South China Morning Post, Tesla is suing Han Chao, a former tesla owner, for comments he made on social media. A separate claim is being pursued against Zhang Yazhou, the daughter of a Tesla owner, who was involved in an accident that she blames on Tesla.
China has released a 15-year roadmap on the development of intellectual property rights 2021-2035. IP Kat has more detail here.
A court has thrown out a request for murder suspects Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscast to be made parties to a libel case about a botched 2010 HSBC heist.
A court has ruled that Simon Busuttil did not libel Edward Scicluna when he wrote that the then finance-minister was “embroiled in a Money laundering investigation.”
The US songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is being sued for defamation by producer Chris Nelson, who claims she “intentionally used her high-profile public platform on Instagram to publish false and defamatory statements regarding [Nelson] in order to destroy his reputation.” Nelson seeks $3.8 million in damages for alleged defamation, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with prospective economic relations and negligent interference with prospective economic relations.
Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and founder of the right-wing website Infowars, has been found liable for damages in a trio of defamation lawsuits filed after he falsely claimed that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.
Newly broadened anti-SLAPP laws in New York have allowed agent Mark Geragos to amend his answer to the claim brought by Lukasz “Dr Luke” Gottwald and assert a claim for legal fees. The claim relates to allegations Geragos made on Twitter relating to Lukasz and Lady Gaga, in which Geragos insinuated Lukasz was the man who sexually assaulted Gaga. Lukasz is also facing a claim by singer Kesha Serbert alleging sexual assault and he is counterclaiming for defamation. All Geragos was required to do was show that the counterclaim is “not patently without merit, nor is it futile.”
Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Permutter has won his libel case suit against Canadian tycoon Harold Peerenboom over a dispute as to who should run the Sloan Curve tennis court in the billionaires’ Palm Beach complex.
Research and Resources
- “Taming the ‘chilling effect’ of defamation law: English experience and implications for Australia,” Jelena Gligorijevic, Federal Law Review 
- “The New Parental Rights,” Anne Dailey and Laura Rosenbury, Duke Law Journal 75 
- “Transparency, Accountability and Consent in Evidence Building: How Government Ethically and Legally Uses Administrative Data for Statistical Activities,” Nick Hart and Katherine Wallman, Bipartisan Centre Evidence Project 
- “Risky Fine Print: A Novel Typology of Ethical Risks in Mobile App User Agreements”, Bar Fargon MizrahiVillanova Law Review, Vol. 66, No. 3 
- “The new frontier of platform policy,” Matthew Marinett,Internet Policy Review 10(3) 
- “Editorial independence in an automated media system“, Max van Drunen Internet Policy Review 10(3) 
- “From Digital Platforms to Facial Recognition Technologies: Structural Challenges to Women’s Activism,” Monika Zalnieriute, Submission to the Thematic Report on Girls’ and Young Women’s Activism for the 50th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council 
- “Big Data, Surveillance Capitalism, and Precision Medicine: Challenges for Privacy,” Mark A Rothstein, J.L. Med. & Ethics 4 
Next Week in the Courts
On 4 October 2021, Saini J will hear an application in the case of Qatar Airways Group Q.S.C.S v Middle East News UK Limited and others.
On 5 October 2021, Nicklin J will hear the trial of a preliminary issue in the case of Vine v Belfield.
On 6 and 7 October 2021, the Court of Appeal (Sharp P, Elisabeth Laing and Warby LJJ) will hear the appeal in the case of Soriano v Forensic News (from the decision of Jay J on 15 January 2021,  EWHC 56 (QB)).
On 8 October 2021 Julian Knowles J will hand down judgment in the case of Wright v McCormack (heard 16 and 18 February 2021).
Abramovich v HarperCollins and Roseneft v HarperCollins, heard 28 and 29 July 2021 (Tipples J).
Swan v Associated Newspapers, heard 15 July 2021 (Nicklin J)
Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia., heard 15 and 16 June 2021 (Julian Knowles J)
Riley v Murray, heard 10 to 12 May 2021 (Nicklin J)
Lloyd v Google, heard 28 and 29 April 2021 (UKSC)
Kumlin v Jonsson, heard 24 and 25 March 2021 (Julian Knowles J).
Miller v College of Policing and another, heard 9 and 10 March 2021 (Sharp P, Haddon-Cave and Simler LJJ)
Ansari v Amini, heard 10-11 November 2020 (Julian Knowles J)
This Round Up was compiled by Colette Allen who is the host of Newscast on Dr Thomas Bennett and Professor Paul Wragg’s The Media Law Podcast (@MediaLawPodcast).