The Sun has settled a defamation claim brought by an immigration solicitor it accused of “shamelessly touting” a price list of legal aid fees for migrants arriving in small boats. It has agreed to pay “a very substantial five-figure sum” to cover damages and costs and has published a correction on its website. There was a piece on the Doughty Street Chambers website about the case.
On 30 March 2022, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee published its report, “Technology Rules? The advent of new technologies in the justice system.” The report investigated the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced algorithmic tools designed to discover, deter, rehabilitate or punish individuals who break the law. The Committee found that AI tools are commonly developed without oversight, most notably by police forces. The Report raises concerns that these technologies are created faster than legislation can be written and public debate about its ethical uses can take place.
The Press Gazette reports that a coalition of national newspaper publishers have called for the proposed UK ‘Bill of Rights’ to introduce a serious harm threshold for privacy cases, as already seen with defamation cases. The publishers also asked for individual journalists to be protected from intimidating “SLAPP” libel actions, for journalistic exemptions in the Data Protection Act to be strengthened, and for privacy cases to have the same one-year limitation period as defamation. The newspaper publishers have not, for reasons which are unclear, made their submission public.
This followed evidence provided by journalists and lawyers to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee on 31 March 2022 that the impact of SLAPP cases went deeper than court cases, with pre-court intimidation and the threat of costly legal proceedings meaning countless articles never get published.
Internet and Social Media
Inforrm had an article on how social media affects children at different ages, and potential routes to protect them beyond the proposals set out in the Online Safety Bill.
Last year, Apple and Meta provided user data to hackers who forged “emergency data requests” through compromised law enforcement emails. User data included customers’ addresses, phone numbers and IP addresses, and it is unknown how many times the data was provided, Bloomberg reports.
The Guardian reports the conviction of Matthew Hardy, who received a nine-year prison sentence on five counts of stalking, which is believed to be the longest penalty for a stalking conviction in UK history. Hardy is reported to have stalked over 62 women online for more than a decade, posing as a woman on social media platforms and claiming to have information about his victim’s life.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The European Parliament passed a proposal to ban anonymous cryptocurrency transactions, despite criticism that the move would invade privacy, CoinDesk reports.
The Washington Post reports that Russian oligarchs and other influential individuals are using the UK General Data Protection Regulation to silence journalists. The UK GDPR has previously been successful in suing people who may have undesirable/compromising information about an someone on their device. The individuals in possession of such information have been defined as a data controller and found to be violating the law.
IAPP has listed the reactions of regulators and companies to the EU-US trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, announced two weeks ago. The Data Protection Report has published its initial commentary on the Framework here.
In response to a 2015 Press Gazette investigation into police use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to secretly view journalists’ call records and identify lawful confidential sources, the UK Government has admitted that its pre-2016 surveillance regime violated human rights laws. According to two European Court of Human Rights decisions published on 31 March 2022, the UK Government has now acknowledged that section 8 of RIPA was “not compliant” with Article 8 (privacy) or, in relation to treatment of confidential journalistic material, Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The admission came following a “friendly settlement” in two cases, the Press Gazette and Privacy International report.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Hacked Off has published an explanation of how Russia Today would benefit from the press exemptions of the Online Safety Bill, which are described as “unjustified, poorly drafted, and a threat to the interests and the safety of the British public.”
- 13135-21 Foster v Wigan Observer, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2021), 3 Harassment (2021), 2 Privacy (2021), 1 Accuracy (2021), No breach – after investigation
- 10749-21 Sokal v kentlive.news, 1 Accuracy (2021), No breach – after investigation
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On 31 March 2022, Newsgroup Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, agreed to pay “very substantial” damages to the solicitor Uma Rajasundram, whose firm was falsely accused of “shamelessly touting a price list to help migrants stay in the UK.” The newspaper has published a statement in print and online admitting and clarifying the two types of fees that the article had “confused.” The Press Gazette and Doughty Street Chambers report the statement.
On 1 April 2022 there was a Statement in Open Court [pdf] in Hitchen v Channel 5, in which Channel 5 apologised for the misuse of the claimant’s private information in an episode of the television programme, Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!
New Issued Cases
There were six defamation (libel and slander) claims, one data protection claim and one miscellaneous claim issued on the Media and Communications list last week.
Last Week in the Courts
On 29 March 2022 there was an application in the case of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn-v-Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor Maria de Borbon y Borbon.
On 30 March 2022, the broadcaster and journalist Andrew Neil was granted permission to serve out his libel claim on Jennifer Arcuri in the United Sates over tweets that linked Neil to Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book.” 5RB has a summary here. The Evening Standard, Independent and Press Gazette also report the decision.
On 30 March 2022 there was an application in the case of Watkins -v- Mackle.
On 30 and 31 March 2022 there was a hearing in the case of MBR Acres Limited and others v FREE THE MBR BEAGLES.
On 30 March 2022, judgment was handed down in Wilson v Mendelson, Newbon and Cantor  EWHC 715 (QB). The claim for libel, misuse of private information, harassment, breach of data rights arose out of a parking dispute outside of a primary school in which the claimant took a picture of the first defendant’s car and young daughter, and the first defendant took a photograph of the claimant and subsequently posted it on Facebook with accompanying text describing the claimant as a “weirdo.” The second and third defendants shared the first defendant’s photograph on Twitter. Held, the Facebook post and subsequent tweets did not infer a meaning that amounted to an allegation of paedophilia but were defamatory at common law.
On 31 March 2022, £50,000 in damages was awarded and an injunction granted to the claimant in Sadik v Sadik
On 31 March 2022 an application was heard in the case of Soriano v Societe D’Exploitation De L’Hebdomadaire Le Point (S.E.B.D.O).
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Guardian has the latest coverage of Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial against The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times over allegations that he committed war crimes while serving in Afghanistan.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the West Australian Attorney-General John Quigley may have to fly back to Sydney next month to be re-examined after he made “mistakes” during his initial evidence in Clive Palmer’s defamation trial.
The Michael Geist blog has an article criticising the Government’s defence of the Online Streaming Act (Bill C-11).
The Canadian Privacy Law blog has an article on the recently announced CLOUD Act, an agreement negotiation process between Canada and the US to facilitate cross-border law enforcement investigations.
The appeal against the dismissed counterclaim for defamation in Dolynchuk v McGowan, 2022 SKCA 42 was allowed on the basis that the trial judge erred in applying a relaxed and inappropriate standard for the admissibility of evidence generally, and further erred in admitting expert evidence tendered by the respondent.
The application to dismiss a defamation claim as a Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP) under s.4 of the Protection of Public Participation Act 2019 was dismissed in Waterton Global Resource Management, Inc. v Bockhold, 2022 BCSC 499 (CanLII).
The Fei Chang Dao blog has an article on two recent examples of censorship of articles about COVID-19 infections in a Shanghai Nursing Home.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has recently delivered a judgment in the case of OOO Memo v. Russia, and for the first time refers to the notion of SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). In its judgment of 15 March 2022, the ECtHR expresses its concerns about the risk for democracy of court proceedings instituted with a view to limiting public participation, interfering with the freedom of expression by media, journalists, or other public watchdogs. The Strasbourg Observes summary can be read here.
The Ukrainian military has been using Clearview AI software to identify Russian soldiers killed in combat and find their social media accounts so that officials can track down and inform their families, Reuters reports.
The Centre for Internet and Society has issued its warning that local governments are ill-prepared for cyberattacks, and the devastating consequences that can unfold when local governments are hacked.
On 25 March 2022, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois approved a $1.1 million settlement with TikTok Inc. to resolve claims that TikTok collected children’s data and sold it to third parties without parental consent. The Privacy and Information Security Law Blog has more information here.
Moira Donegan, the journalist behind the “s****y media men” list, which documented a range of allegations from sexual assault to general misconduct, may be trialled for defamation after a judge denied a motion for immunity. The claim for defamation is brought by Stephen Elliott, who was listed alongside allegations of rape, sexual harassment, and “coercion,” the Independent and Daily Mail report.
On 1 April 2022, a US appeals rejected former congressman Devin Nunes’ effort to revive a $250 million lawsuit accusing the Washington Post of defamation for implying that he lied to former President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.
Research and Resources
- Edward Lee and Andrew Moshirnia, How Education Level and Social Media Use Increase Belief in Misinformation (2022), Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review, Vol. 29(1)
- Brandon Schaufele, Chilling Effects from Anti-SLAPP Laws (2022), University of Western Ontario – Richard Ivey School of Business
- Shannon O’Byrne and Avner Levin, It Shouldn’t Be Small Potatoes: The Future of Civil Damage Awards Under Canada’s Personal Information Protection Legislation (2022), The Advocates’ Quarterly, forthcoming
- Gligorijevic, Jelena, Submission to Review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Discussion Paper Submission) (2022), ANU College of Law
- Alice Xiang, Being ‘Seen’ vs. ‘Mis-Seen’: Tensions between Privacy and Fairness in Computer Vision (2022), Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, forthcoming
- Antonio Davola, Ilaria Querci and Simona Romani, No Consumer is an Island – Relational Disclosure as a Regulatory Strategy to Advance Consumers Protection Against Microtargeting (2022), ALS: Amsterdam Centre for Transformative Private Law
- Luiza Jarovsky, Dark Patterns in Personal Data Collection: Definition, Taxonomy and Lawfulness (2022), Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law
- Nora Ni Loideain, Brexit, Data Adequacy, and the EU Law Enforcement Directive (2022), final paper to be published in Eleni Kosta & Franziska Boehm (eds), The Law Enforcement Directive: A Commentary (Oxford University Press) (Forthcoming)
- Tyler Valeska, First Amendment Limitations on Public Disclosure of Protest Surveillance (2021), Columbia Law Review, Vol. 121(8)
- Danielle Keats Citron, Presidential Privacy Violations (2022), University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2022-23
- Jake Goldenfein, Kimberlee Weatherall, and Christine Parker, Online Privacy Bill Consultation Submission (2021), Melbourne Law School – University of Melbourne
Next Week in the Courts
On 4 April 2022, there will be an application in the case of QRT v JBE before Saini J.
On 5 April 2022, there will be an application in Fatima and another v Aviva Insurance UK Limited and other before Saini J.
On 6 April 2022, there will be an application in Mehmood v HUM Network UK Limited and others before Saini J.
On 6 and 7 April 2022 there will be a hearing in MBR Acres Limited and others v FREE THE MBR BEAGLES before Nicklin J
On 7 April 2022 there will be an application in the case of Murray v Telegraph Media Group Ltd and another.
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).
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).