The journalist and former MP Chris Mullin is fighting an order under the Terrorism Act 2000 made by the West Midlands Police to reveal confidential sources related to his investigations into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. Mullin’s investigative journalism helped secure the release of six men wrongly convicted for the attacks in 1991. His decision to contest the order is supported by the National Union of Journalists, the Press Gazette reports.
Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley Jr has accused the BBC of creating a “news blackout” by failing to report that it is being sued by Gerry Adams for defamation, the Daily Mail reports. Adams, the former leader of Sinn Fein, launched legal proceedings in the High Court in Dublin in 2017 after the BBC broadcast allegations he had sanctioned the killing of ex-Sinn Fein official and double agent Denis Donaldson. The BBC denies defamation and claims the programme/publication was put out in good faith and during discussion on a subject of public and vital interest.
Spotify, the music streaming service, has been criticised by a number of musicians for misinformation broadcast on its most popular podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience. Inforrm had an article on the tension between free speech and the need to protect the public from harmful misinformation that this controversy highlights.
The former fiancé of the late TV star Caroline Flack has been jailed for harassing former executive editor of The Sun Dan Wootton. Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said Andrew Brady’s claims that Wootton was in some way responsible for Flack’s death were “wholly irrational,” noting that Wootton was a friend of the Love Island presenter. The Press Gazette has more information here.
Inforrm celebrated its twelfth birthday this week.
Internet and Social Media
Cyberleagle has published a round-up of what is on the horizon for UK internet law, including the Online Safety Bill, EU Digital Services Act, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Investigatory Power Act review.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The final version of the international data transfer agreement and the international data transfer addendum to the European Commission’s standard contractual clauses for international data transfers, was laid before Parliament on 2 February 2022. DLA Piper has more information here.
The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a response to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s submission of draft data transfer mechanisms and procedures to Parliament. The submission includes the International data transfer agreement, the International data transfer addendum to the European Commission’s standard contractual clauses, and transitional provisions for the use of current SCCs for international transfers.
The ICO has fined a Welsh home improvement firm £200,000 for making more than 500,000 unsolicited marketing calls.
The government has published the UK’s own standard form international data transfer agreement for transferring personal data outside the UK to countries not deemed to have adequate data protection regimes. It has also published a standard form international data transfer addendum which allows use of the revised EU SCCs for export from the UK. The Norton Rose Fulbright Data Protection Report has more information here.
Several UK supermarkets have begun trialling artificial intelligence-powered software to automatically verify ages for alcohol sales. Asda, co-op and Morrisons will use the verification system, with customer consent, to scan faces and guess ages using algorithms trained on a database of 125,000 anonymous faces ages 6-60.
A flaw in Apple’s software exploited by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group to break into iPhones in 2021 was simultaneously abused by a competing company, Reuters reports.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
The LSE Media Blog has an post arguing for more investment, not less, in the BBC, as well as government-encouraged structural reforms that would benefit both the institution and its audiences.
New Issued Cases
One defamation (libel and slander) claim , one injunction application and one miscellaneous claim were filed on the Media and Communications list last week.
Last Week in the Courts
Judgement was handed down in Stadler v Currys Group Ltd  EWHC 160 (QB) on the 1 February 2022. Large parts of the Claimant’s case were struck out, only the data protection breach can continue to trial. The matter has been transferred to the County Court. The judgment is the latest example of MAC decisions that make it clear that low-level data breach claims are not suitable for the High Court. 5RB has a summary here.
Judgement was handed down in Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari v Syed Tauqeer Bukhari  EWHC 173 (QB) on the 1 February 2022 by Murray J. The dispute relates to “many hundreds of tweets”  which accuse the Claimant of corruption, allege that his family wealth is derived from serious crime, and that the Defendant and his father are the victims of criminal conduct by the Claimant and the Claimant’s father. There were also a number of videos in which similar accusations were made. A number of the Tweets have been held to be statements of fact and defamatory at common law, and the matter can proceed to trial.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
A District Court of South Australia has granted a pre-action discovery to identify a person behind an anonymous WeChat account, to allow the prospective plaintiff to bring a claim for defamation, Yu v Yong  SADC 10.
The Attorney General’s Department has said the Coalition’s much-vaunted anti-trolling bill is really about “only defamation” – admitting the proposal was not intended to address broader issues of harm and abuse online. The Guardian has more information here.
A new report into foreign press freedom in China has warned of the Chinese government’s attempts to shut down foreign reporting and target specific journalists with abuse, censure, physical assault and expulsion. The Press Gazette has more information here.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario has dismissed an Appeal brought by the Rebel News Network against a Decision of 16 February 2021 to dismiss its defamation claim against Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Media Network won a motion to dismiss a defamation claim brought by Rebel News, a right-wing news organisation, that sued over allegations broadcast by Al Jazeera on its “Listening Post” programme in September 2019. Carter-Ruck has more information here.
The Michael Geist blog had an article on the government’s response to the near-universal criticism of its Online Harms consultation.
The Irish National Digital Strategy was published on the 1 February 2022, with the goal to facilitate regulators’ abilities to cooperate and coordinate effectively so citizens can shop, communicate, and share and create content, while remaining safe online.
On 31 January 2022, the EARN IT Act was reintroduced to the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal and 18 co-sponsors from both parties. The House also reintroduced its version last week. The EARN IT Act promises to pare back online service providers’ broad immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1996, exposing them to civil lawsuits and state-level criminal charges for the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) posted by their users. The Center for Internet and Society’s analysis can be read here.
Several regional publishers have written letters explaining why the US Senate should follow Australia and force Google and Meta to pay publishers for their content. They claim that reform is “urgently needed” to solve America’s local news “crisis”. The Senate debated the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) last week. The Press Gazette has more information here.
Sarah Palin’s defamation trial against the New York Times began last week. The former vice-president nominee is suing the publisher for an editorial that it ran, and partially retracted, which incorrectly claimed that there was a connection between advertisements run by her political action committee and a 2011 shooting. Reuters has an article on how the trial is set to test defamation protection for the media.
Research and Resources
- Fiona Brimblecombe and Helen Fenwick, Protecting private information in the digital era: making the most effective use of the availability of the actions under the GDPR/DPA and the tort of misuse of private information 54 NILQ 73
- Yonathan Arbel, A Status Theory of Defamation Law (2022), University of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4021605
- Kwame Yaro Appiah and Kwame Richard Klu, The Object of the Law of Defamation in Ghana. Re-Identifying the Common Law Tort of Defamation – The Ace Ankomah Case (2020) African Centre for SDGs Research and Policy
- Ara Anees, Dharminder Yadav, and Avinash Sharma, An Efficient Privacy-Preserving User Authentication Scheme Using Image Processing and Blockchain Technologies, Prince Sultan University
- Bo Bian, Xinchen Ma, and Huan Tang, The Supply and Demand for Data Privacy: Evidence from Mobile Apps (2021) University of British Columbia and London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)
- Florian Hoffmann, Roman Inderst, and Marco Ottaviani, Persuasion Through Selective Disclosure: Implications for Marketing, Campaigning, and Privacy Regulation (2022), CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16901
- Kristof Madarasz and Marek Pycia, Towards a Resolution of the Privacy Paradox (2022), CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP16873
- Audrey Guinchard, Our Digital Footprint under COVID-19: Should We Fear the UK Digital Contact Tracing App? (2020), International Review of Law Computers and Technology 2020
- Michael Froomkin, Phillip J Arencibia and Zak Colangelo, Safety as Privacy (2022), University of Miami – School of Law; Yale University – Yale Information Society Project and Duane Morris LLP and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
- Oskar Josef Gstrein and Anne Beaulieu, How to protect privacy in a datafied society? A presentation of multiple legal and conceptual approaches (2022), Philosophy & Technology (2022)
Next Week in the Courts
On 8 and 9 February 2022 Steyn J will hear applications in the case of Vardy v Rooney.
Banks v Cadwalladr 14, 17 to 19 and 21 January 2022 (Steyn J).
Underwood v Bounty UK Ltd, heard on 11 to 13 January 2022 (Nicklin J).
Goldsmith v Bissett-Powell, heard on 13 January 2022 (Julian Knowles J).
Driver v Crown Prosecution Service, heard on 8 December 2021 (Julian Knowles J).
ZXC v Bloomberg LP, heard on 30 November – 1 December 2021 (UK Supreme Court).
Qatar Airways Group Q.S.C.S v Middle East News UK Limited and others heard on 4 October 2021 (Saini J).
Haviland v The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd., heard on 27 July 2021 (Murray J).
Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia., heard 15 and 16 June 2021 (Julian Knowles J).
Kumlin v Jonsson, heard 24 and 25 March 2021 (Julian Knowles J).
Ansari v Amini, heard 10 and 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).