Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s offer to buy the platform for $44bn and take the company private. The Financial Times, TechCrunch, Verge, BBC, New York Times and Reuters are just some of the many to publish responses to the news. There are emerging privacy concerns based on Musk’s comments regarding the future of the platform.
Musk has vaguely floated a real-name policy, which Jeffrey Kosseff, an associate professor of cybersecurity at the U.S. Naval Academy, said raises concerns that everyone would have to authenticate their identity with Twitter, Wired reports. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also published a blog post outlining what Musk should do to protect privacy and security for Twitter users.
Meirion Jones, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, revealed last week that The Sun attempted to expose Jimmy Savile as a paedophile in 2008, while he was still alive, but were forced to back down because, in Jones’ words, Britain’s “arcane libel laws protect the wicked.” Lawyers at the time advised The Sun that a libel action could cost a million pounds and loss was inevitable, in part because the system “rewarded his deliberate targeting of vulnerable victims.” Jones’ article for the Guardian can be read here and a follow up article here.
Internet and Social Media
Sixty-one nations have signed the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet,” which outlines various digital commitments related to maintaining internet commerce. The pledges outlined in the declaration include “a global Internet that advances the free flow of information” and the promotion of “trust in the global digital ecosystem, including through protection of privacy.” The White House press release has further information here.
Google has expanded its search removal requests to include additional personally identifiable contact information. Beyond sensitive information, users can now request data including phone numbers, email and geographical addresses to be removed from search results, as well as information that may pose identity theft risks. ZDNet has more information here.
The LSE Media Blog has an article on recent findings of an evidence review on young people’s digital literacy, online resilience and wellbeing, conducted as part of research for the ySKILLS project.
Meta, Apple, Google and Twitter are among companies that have been tricked into providing customers’ sensitive personal data in response to fraudulent requests. Sources, including law enforcement officials and industry investigators, said the data has been used to hack victim accounts and extort women and minors, sometimes for sexually explicit material, Bloomberg reports.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The HawkTalk Blog has an article on the UK Government’s disregard for the UK Adequacy Agreement, which relates to UK and EU data transfers. The conclusion the the government is preparing to “wave two fingers” to the agreement is based on the deficiencies in the two consultation exercises of the DCMS (on data protection) and MoJ (on human rights) and the recent report of Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights into the MoJ proposals. This latter Report is said to contain “many warnings concerning the Government’s intent to diminish individuals’ rights.”
The ICO’s response to Channel 4’s documentary Inside the Metaverse admits that there are data protection risks associated with new and emerging immersive technologies, but that the Online Safety Bill and Children’s Code are designed to mitigate such risks.
The Brett Wilson Media Law Blog has an article summarising and commenting on the 30 March 2022 judgment of Chief Constable of Kent Police & Anor v Taylor  EWHC 737 (QB), in which Saini J allowed a claim for breach of confidence arising from the Defendant’s refusal to delete videos that a law firm that had accidentally disclosed to him and which contained sensitive information about a vulnerable minor.
The same blog has also published an article on the recent decisions in The Queen on the application of Privacy International v Investigatory Powers Tribunal  EWHC 770 QB and Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales v British Broadcasting Corporation  EWHC 826 (QB), on the topic of closed judgments. The piece notes that neither judgment fully explains the reasoning behind their decisions, despite there being significant public interest in the outcome.
The Centre for Internet and Society has published an article that provides a “very quick and dirty rundown” of the EU’s new Digital Services Act (DSA), described as a “once in a generation overhaul of EU law governing intermediaries’ handling of user content”.
A data breach compromised personal data of over 100 U.K. army recruits and shut down the army’s online recruitment portal for more than a month. Names, birthdates, addresses and previous employment details of recruits were posted for sale on the dark web. A spokesperson for the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said a breach notification was reviewed and it was determined no further action was needed. InfoSecurity Magazine has more information here.
Freedom of Information
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has published its Report into the operation of the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information “Clearing House” – the body which coordinates responses to certain Freedom of Information (“FOI”) requests across Government. Key findings of the report are summarised on the Mishcon de Reya Blog.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Newsquest, the publishers of titles like the Northern Echo and Lancashire Telegraph, have finalised a deal to buy its rival, Archant. In a letter to Newsquest and Archant’s private equity owner Rcapital, the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has raised her concerns that the merger gives rise to “plurality concerns” regarding the impact on competition in East Anglia. Dorries said she was “minded” to issue an intervention notice, which would lead to the buyout being blocked. The Press Gazette has more information here.
Hacked Off has revealed that IPSO, the complaints-handler controlled by the press, has never upheld a complaint of sexism against the press. This was prompted by the 5000+ complaints over the misogynistic coverage of Angela Rayner MP which appeared in the Mail on Sunday last weekend. Hacked Off Board Director Emma Jones said that the sexist Rayner article reflects a “cultural problem” which cannot be fixed with tokenistic punishments of the journalist.
Hacked Off also has an article exposing the dangerous “campaign of vitriol” aimed at GPs by certain sections of the media and some politicians in response to the Government’s decision to shift the majority of GP consultations from face-to-face to remote during the Covid-19 pandemic. Professor Martin Marshall, a GP in East London and Chair of the Royal College of GPs, explains how GPs have been “demonised” for allegedly giving lower standards of care to patients that have cost lives, despite no evidence.
- 13204-21 A man v Doncaster Free Press, 2 Privacy (2021), 12 Discrimination (2021), No breach – after investigation
- Resolution Statement – 13207-21 Studholme v Mail Online, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2021), 1 Accuracy (2021), Resolved – IPSO mediation
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On 28 April 2022, a statement in open court was read at the High Court in the phone hacking claim brought by Dr Evan Harris, a former Hacked Off Director, Liberal Democrat MP and international freedom of expression campaigner, against News Group Newspapers (“NGN”). NGN has agreed to pay Dr Harris “substantial damages” plus legal costs, a settlement that was “tantamount to an admission of liability” of hacking at The Sun dating from his days as an MP. Read Hacked Off’s summary here.
New Issued Cases
There were three defamation (libel and slander), two miscellaneous and one misuse of private information claims issued on the Media and Communications List last week.
Last Week in the Courts
On 26 April 2022 Chamberlain J heard an application in the case of HM Attorney-General v BBC.
On the same day Steyn J heard an application in the case of Ince Group v Persons Unknown
On 27 April 2022 Nicklin J heard a mode of trial application in the case of Blake v Fox.
On 29 April 2022, the Court of Appeal dismissed majority of the appeal in Raffaele Mincione v Gedi Gruppo Editoriale S.p.A  EWCA Civ 557. Held, when a court is seized on the “mosaic” basis under Article 7(2) of the Recast Brussels Regulation EU 1215/2012 (“RBR”), it may grant an injunction prohibiting online publication but only if such an injunction is limited to England and Wales both in its terms and its effect. The Court of Appeal also found that the section 12 Order requiring online publication in England and Wales is a “discursive” remedy, designed to undo or mitigate reputational harm caused by past publication. Internet injunctions, however, are a prospective remedy, aimed at preventing future harm. These differences could lead a mosaic court to different answers when it comes to jurisdiction over the two kinds of relief, depending on the facts. Since the court’s jurisdiction over libel claims brought since the end of the Brexit implementation period is governed by s.9 of the 2013 Act and not the RBR, the impact of this judgment is limited. The 5RB summary and comment can be read here.
On 11 May 2022, there will be a book launch for Dr Peter Coe’s Media Freedom in the Age of Citizen Journalism. Further details about booking can be found here.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Guardian reports the ongoing defamation trial between ex-soldier Ben Roberts-Smith and the Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times for defamation over a series of reports that Roberts-Smith alleges were defamatory and portrayed him as committing war crimes, including murder.
An appeal court has ruled that a doctor from the controversial Chelmsford psychiatric hospital in Sydney is entitled to a retrial of part of his defamation suit against a journalist and publisher, overturning an earlier decision to dismiss the case. The Sydney Morning Herald has more information here.
Parts of Nine’s defence to a defamation case over reports about a custody battle over an Instagram-famous cavoodle has been tossed for being embarrassing, evasive and ambiguous, the Canberra Times reports.
The Michael Geist blog has an article that considers the implications of the Canadian government’s recent decision to extend the term of copyright from the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years.
The Canadian Privacy Law Blog has an article on Canada’s new anti-spam law, which also regulates the installation of software.
The Fei Chang Dao Blog has provided a full translation of the former editor of the state-sponsored media outlet “Global Times” Hu Xijin (胡锡进)’s Weibo post, dated 23 April 2022, in which Hu describes China’s censorship as better than the “western” free speech. The post is in response to criticism of the state censorship of a video entitled “Voices of April,” which contained emotional testimonials of Shanghai residents amidst the latest Covid-19 lockdowns.
The European Commission has proposed measures to protect journalists and campaigners working to expose corruption and wrongdoing from vexatious lawsuits (a.k.a. strategic lawsuits against public participation, or “Slapps”). Under a draft EU directive, journalists and NGOs in the EU would be able to appeal to the courts to throw out “manifestly unfounded” court cases that involve more than one EU member state, the Guardian reports.
The editor of a now-closed Singaporean news outlet Online Citizen has been jailed for three weeks for defamation over a letter published on the site that alleged corruption among government ministers. Xu’s jailing adds to fears over worsening media freedoms in Singapore, which ranks 160th out of 180 territories in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, behind Belarus and Russia. The Guardian has more information here.
Companies providing cybersecurity services in Singapore will now have to obtain a licence for the provision of such services by 11 October 2022. DLA Piper provides an overview of the new licensing framework under the Cybersecurity Act.
Spain’s Ombudsman has opened an investigation into alleged spying on Catalan separatist leaders by the government between 2017 and 2020. The Spanish National Intelligence Centre will also conduct its own investigation. The dual probes came as a result of the digital rights group Citizen Lab reporting that more than 60 people tied to the Catalan separatist movement were targeted with Pegasus spyware during the autonomous region’s failed independence bid. Reuters has more information here.
The California state legislature and an industry self-regulatory group have each taken steps to enhance online privacy protections for children who are not covered by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which applies only to personal information collected online from children under the age of 13. The Hunton Andrews Kurth Blog has more information here.
Sky News, The Guardian, BBC, Independent, The Telegraph and The Spectator are some of the many to cover the ongoing defamation trial between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard, over allegations that Depp physically abused Heard during their relationship.
Research and Resources
- Lazarova, Ana, Re-Use the News: Between the EU Press Publishers’ Right’s Addressees and the Informatory Exceptions’ Beneficiaries (2021), Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, Volume 16, Issue 3
- McGrath, Maya, Teacher Prayer in Public Schools (2022). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 5
- Allen, David, The Construction of Time, Place, and Manner and American Expressive Freedom (2022), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
- Citron, Danielle Keats, Intimate Privacy’s Protection Enables Free Speech (2022), Journal of Free Speech Law, forthcoming, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2022-29
- Katsabian, Tammy, The Telework Virus: How COVID-19 has Affected Telework and Exposed Its Implications for Privacy (2022), Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Forthcoming
- Witt, Anne C., Facebook v. Bundeskartellamt – May European Competition Agencies Apply the GDPR? (2022), Competition Policy International, TechREG CHRONICLE
- Viganò, Eleonora and Christen, Markus and Elger, Bernice S. and Ienca, Marcello and Loi, Michele and Schneble, Christophe and Burri, Mira and Hauser, Christian and Shaw, David, Ethical, Legal and Social Issues of Big Data – A Comprehensive Overview (2022), White Paper of the ELSI Task Force for the National Research Programme “Big Data”
- Thomas, Bryan and Flood, Colleen M. and Krishnamurthy, Vivek and Krishnamurthy, Vivek and Tanner, Ryan and Wilson, Kumanan, Vaccine Ins and Outs: An Exploration of the Legal Issues Raised by Vaccine Passports (2021), C.D. Howe Institute working paper
- Kessel, Lena, Cultural Influences on Personal Data Disclosure Decisions (2022), University of Passau IRDG Research Paper No. 22-04
- Jeong, Myeongki and Kim, Doehun and Park, Hyunho and Zo, Hang Jung and Ciganek, Andrew P., Corporate Social Responsibility’s Influence on Misinformation in Online Platforms (2022), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
- Tang, Kwok and Jaffe, Anna and Sargeant, Holli and Garside, Ariane and Wilkinson, Susannah and Massender, Brooke, Herbert Smith Freehills submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission (2022)
- Tokson, Matthew J., The Carpenter Test as a Transformation of Fourth Amendment Law (2022), University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming
- Mammadov, Rahil, Is Privacy Still Possible on Social Media? (2021), Lund University, Faculty of Law
- Lin, Patrick K., How to Save Face & the Fourth Amendment: Developing an Algorithmic Auditing and Accountability Industry for Facial Recognition Technology in Law Enforcement (Forthcoming 2023), 33 ALB. L.J. SCI. & TECH.
Next Week in the Courts
On 4 May 2022, there will be a hearing in the case of LCG v. OVD before Murray J.
On 5 May 2022, there will be a hearing in the case of Hamblin v News Group Newspapers Limited.
On 6 May 2022, there will be a hearing in the case of Hijazi v. Yaxley Lennon before Nicklin J.
On the same day there will be a hearing in the case of Amazon v. Tejan-Kella before Murray J.
Dudley v Phillips , heard on 12 April 2022 (Saini J)
XXX v Persons Unknown , heard on 12 April 2022 (Chamberlain J).
Various Claimants v MGN, heard on 11 to 13 April 2022.
Shah v Chohan, heard on 7 March 2022 (HHJ Lewis).
Wright v Granath, heard on 24 February 2022 (HHJ Lewis).
Banks v Cadwalladr 14, 17 to 19 and 21 January 2022 (Steyn 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).