In the managed phone hacking litigation, the managing judge, Fancourt J, dismissed an application by News Group Newspapers, to bring the managed litigation to an end. The Judge noted that new claimants were still learning of potential claims. The court heard that there are currently 52 claims registered, with a further 38 claims at the pre-action letter stage and 82 more “in the pipeline”.
About 1,028 claims have been settled, with an additional 358 applications to the News Group compensation scheme. There was a report of the judgment in the Guardian (but it was not mentioned in any of News UK’s titles).
In an interview with the Daily Mail Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has indicated that the Government intends to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights in which the principle of free speech will become a “legal trump card”. Mr Raab was quoted as saying “‘I feel very strongly that the parameters of free speech and democratic debate are being whittled away, whether by the privacy issue or whether it’s wokery and political correctness. I worry about those parameters of free speech being narrowed.” He did not explain how these proposals would be compatible with the UK’s continued adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. The proposals were criticised by Amnesty International. The LRB has a piece by Tom Hickman “A UK Bill of Rights?”
The journalist and former MP Chris Mullin has successfully resisted an application by West Midlands Police to hand over material that would identify confidential sources relating to his investigations into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. There were reports in the Press Gazette.
The Duke of Sussex’s lawyers were criticised by a Swift J High Court judge for breaching the embargo on a draft ruling in his judicial review against the Home Office. There was a report in the Law Society Gazette. The Judge handed down a judgment dealing with access to documents and anonymity (R (On the Application Of the Duke of Sussex) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 682 (Admin)).
The Times reported that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary organisation, the Wagner Group, is suing the founder of Bellingcat, Eliot Higgins, in an attempt to silence the investigative website that has revealed many of its shadowy operations. However, shortly afterwards the Wagner Group was sanctioned and Mr Prigozhin’s solicitors applied to come off the record.
Internet and Social Media
The Government has added two new duties to the proposed Online Safety Bill that are aimed at protecting people against anonymous online abuse. These measures would give users of “main social media firms” more control over who can interact with them and the type of content users see (see the Government’s press release of 25 February 2022). There is a post about this on the Data Protection Report blog.
The Data Protection Report blog has a discussion of Nicklin J’s recent decision in SMO v Tik Tok.
On 10 March 2022, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued a monetary penalty notice to a professional services firm in the sum of £98,000 for a breach of Article 5(1)(f) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There was a post on the Data Protection Report blog.
The Social Media Law Bulletin has a post on the Canadian Government’s proposed “Online Streaming Act” (Bill C-11).
Data Privacy and Data Protection
On 25 March 2022 the European Union announced ‘agreement in principle’ with the United States on a new data transfer framework, intended to replace the Privacy Shield framework that was struck down in the 2020 Schrems II decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. There was a post on the Privacy Matters blog. The Privacy and Information Security Law blog also has a post.
The Private Law Theory blog has an abstract of a new article by Michael Veale and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius, Adtech and Real-Time Bidding under European Data Protection Law, which concludes that, in practice, RTB is structurally difficult to reconcile with European data protection law.
The DAC Beachcroft website has a post on New ICO Guidance on Ransomware and Data Protection Compliance
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
The Press Gazette has a piece, “UK News Media Rich List: Top 50 highest earning execs revealed”
The ECJ has held that a Mail journalist who shared inside information with sources in the course of writing a market rumours column was justified in doing so. There was a report in the Press Gazette.
New Issued Cases
There were four new claims issued in the Media and Communications List last week: two libel claims, one data protection claim and one malicious falsehood claim.
Last Week in the Courts
On 21 March 2022 Nicklin J heard an application in the case of DTL -v- TMA QB-2022-000865.
On 21 to 23 March 2022 Collins Rice J heard the defamation trial in the case of Sivananthan v Vasikaran QB-2020-002381. Judgment was reserved.
On 22 March 2022 Nicklin J heard an application in the defamation case of Tewari v Khetrapal QB-2021-004309.
On 22 March 2022 HHJ Tayler (setting as the EAT) gave judgment in the case of Guardian News & Media v Rozanov  EAT 12 ruling that the media should be provided with skeleton arguments, witness statements and other documents after judgment had been handed down. There was a report in the Law Society Gazette.
On 23 March 2022 Steyn J heard an application in the case of QRT -v- JBE QB-2022-000825.
ON 23 March 2022 Collins Rice J handed down judgment in the case of United the Union v Freitas  EWHC 666 (QB). The Judge assessed damages in the sum of £50,000, following summary judgment having been entered.
On 24 March 2022 Nicklin J handed down judgment in the case of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn v HM Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria De Borbon Y Borbon  EWHC 668 (QB). He dismissed the claim for state immunity brought by the former King of Spain. There was a report in the Law Society Gazette.
As already mentioned, on 24 and 25 March 2022 there was a CMC in the MTVIL litigation, Various Claimants v NGN before Fancourt J. The Judge dismissed an application by NGN that the managed litigation should be brought to an end in July 2022.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Guardian has a report on the libel claim brought by former NSW deputy prime minister John Barilaro against Jordan Shanks (known as Friendlyjordies) and Google over two videos. The judge described Google’s conduct in allowing the videos to be published on YouTube as “extraordinary”. Mr Barilaro ‘s counsel argued that he should get damages “at the top of the range”.
The Guardian has a report on the evidence of Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie at the defamation trial of Ben Roberts-Smith.
In the case of Courtney v Cayman News Service Ltd & Ors  QSC 37 Jackson J dismissed an application for summary judgment by the plaintiff
CBC reports that a Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench judge has ordered CBC Manitoba to pay court costs to a Winnipeg man after finding its coverage about the man was defamatory.
Gerry Adams has been ordered to pay the costs of two applications in relation to strike out and disclosure in his claim against the BBC.
The Social Media Platforms (Defamation Amendment) Bill which would hold a social media company accountable for defamation if they failed to or refused to divulge the identity of an account holder who made defamatory statements on their platform has passed its first stage in the Dail.
Lexology has a case comment on the Supreme Court’s decision in Higgins v IAA which gives guidance on the appropriate range of damages in defamation cases.
The Times of Malta reports that former Financnail Intelligence Analysis United official Jonathan Ferris has won €3,000 in libel damages against Malta Today managing editor Saviour Balzan over a video blog published five years ago. In the video, Balzan drew comparisons between the former police inspector’s work and investigations into the oil procurement scandal to that of the fictional Pink Panther detective Inspector Clouseau.
RNZ reports that the High Court in Wellington has ruled Tafara Mutingwende, who goes by the stage name ‘Theo Outlandish’, was defamed by Joshua Cooper-Taepa in an Instagram livestream in October 2020, watched by more than 200 people.
The BBC reports that Justin Bieber is dropping a $20 million (£16.2m) defamation lawsuit against two women who accused him of sexual assault. It is not clear whether the claims have been settled. There were also reports on Sky News and in the Independent.
The Judge in Virginia in the case brought by Johnny Depp against Amber Heard has dismissed his summary judgment motion and held that Ms Heard can use the state’s Anti-SLAPP statute. The trial will begin on 11 April 2022. Vanity Fair reports that Elon Musk and James Franco will give evidence on behalf of Ms Heard.
A judge in New York has dismissed a defamation claim against Cardi B and her sister in connection with an altercation on the beach at the Hamptons in 2020.
Sara Palin is seeking a new trial of her unsuccessful libel claim against the New York Times, saying a number of errors by the trial judge tainted the outcome of the case.
Research and Resources
- Exporting the First Amendment through Trade: the Global ‘Constitutional Moment’ for Online Platform Liability, Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 53, No. 1, 2022, Han-Wei Liu, Monash University.
- ‘Privacy and Social Media’ in Privacy Law in New Zealand (Third Edition), Chamberlain, N., “Privacy and Children” in Chamberlain, N. & Penk, S. (eds) Privacy Law in New Zealand (Third Edition), (Thompson Reuters, Auckland, Forthcoming May 2022), Nikki Chamberlain, University of Auckland, Faculty of Law.
- ‘Privacy and Children’ in Privacy Law in New Zealand (Third Edition), Chamberlain, N., “Privacy and Children” in Chamberlain, N. & Penk, S. (eds) Privacy Law in New Zealand (Third Edition), (Thompson Reuters, Auckland, Forthcoming May 2022), Nikki Chamberlain, University of Auckland, Faculty of Law
- Individuals as Gatekeepers against Data Misuse, 28 Michigan Technology Law Review 115 (2021), Ying Hu, National University of Singapore (NUS) – Faculty of Law
- Revenge Porn in the Shadow of the First Amendment, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 24, (2022 Forthcoming ), Roni M. Rosenberg, Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg and Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg, Ono Academic College – Law School and Bar-Ilan UniversityUC Berkeley School of Law
- Hate-Speech Bans are at Odds with the Central Principles of Liberalism. University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 5/2022, Matthew H. Kramer, University of Cambridge
- Constitutional Metaphors: Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ and the Legitimation of Platform Governance, Josh Cowls, Philipp Darius, Dominiquo Santistevan and Moritz Schramm, University of Oxford – Oxford Internet Institute, Hertie School – Centre for Digital Governance, University of Chicago – Department of Sociology and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Next Week in the Courts
On 29 March 2022 there will be an application in the case of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn-v-Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria de Borbon y Borbon QB-2020-004165
On 30 March 2022 there will be an application in the case of Watkins -v- Mackle QB 2020 000224
On 30 and 31 March 2022 there will be a hearing in the case of MBR Acres Limited and others v FREE THE MBR BEAGLES – QB-2021-003094
On 31 March 2022 there will be applications in the case of Sadik v Sadik QB-2017-002613 and in the case of Soriano v Societe D’Exploitation De L’Hebdomadaire Le Point (S.E.B.D.O) QB-2019-002482
On 1 April 2022 there will be an application in the case of Hitchin v Channel 5 QB-2022-000820
Sivananthan v Vasikaran, heard on 21 and 23 March 2022 (Collins Rice J)
Shah v Chohan, heard on7 March 2022 (HHJ Lewis).
HM Attorney-General for England and Wales v BBC, heard 1 and 2 March 2022 (Chamberlain J).
Wright v Granath, heard on 24 February 2022 (HHJ Lewis).
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).
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).