On 13 June 2022, Arron Banks’ libel claim against Carole Cadwalladr was dismissed by Steyn J (Banks v Cadwalladr  EWHC 1417 (QB)). Banks sued Cadwalladr over comments in a TED talk and tweet relating to his relationship with the Russian government. The public interest defence was substantially successful..
Saini J had previously found that both the TED talk and the tweet bore the meaning that Banks had lied in relation to a secret relationship he had with the Russian government in relation to acceptance of foreign funding in breach of the law ( EWHC 3451 (QB)). Cadwalladr stated that she did not intend to convey that meaning, and therefore dropped her truth defence and relied solely on a public interest defence at trial.
Steyn J accepted that Cadwalladr did not intend to convey the meaning found by Saini J, but that she instead intended to convey a different, less serious meaning that he had lied about the extent of his relationship with the Russian Government, and that there were grounds to investigate whether or not the source of Banks’ donations to the Brexit campaign was foreign funding in breach of electoral laws. The judge held that Cadwalladr had a reasonable belief that the TED Talk and the tweet were in the public interest. However, the judge also found that Cadwalladr did not continue to have a reasonable belief in the public interest after a later determination from the Electoral Commission found that there was no evidence that Banks had broken the law, and therefore after that point, the defence fell away. Cadwalladr was still successful, however, as the judge found that continued publication after this time did not cause Banks serious reputational harm.
After repeated suggestions by Cadwalladr under cross-examination that the litigation constituted a SLAPP, Steyn J held that “in circumstances where Ms Cadwalladr has no defence of truth, and her defence of public interest has succeeded only in part, it is neither fair nor apt to describe this as a SLAPP suit.” This summary was produced by RPC, who acted for Cadwalladr. Inforrm published a summary here. The Press Gazette’s response can be read here and here. The BBC, Guardian, Independent report. Read Cadwalladr’s response to the judgment in the Guardian here. Read the Guardian’s analysis of this “victory for public interest journalism” here.
Julian Assange is set to face US extradition after the Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the order under the Extradition Act 2003. The case entered Patel’s jurisdiction as Home Secretary last month after the Supreme Court ruled there were no legal concerns over assurances given by US authorities over how he is likely to be treated. The Press Gazette, BBC and Guardian have more information and analysis.
Internet and Social Media
On 14 June 2022, the Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld the Competition and Markets Authority’s assessment that Meta’s purchase of GIPHY harms competition. Privacy International’s summary can be read here.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
The Department of Health and Social Care has published a new data strategy that improves patient access to records and control of their data, including simplified opt-out processes and improved data access. The press release on the new strategy can be read here.
The Mishcon de Reya blog has a summary and commentary on the Government’s plans for data protection reform, which were trailed in this year’s Queen’s Speech.
The ICO has announced an agreement with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and the Treasury that means it is now allowed to retain a proportion (capped at £7.5 million in any year) of the money paid in fines. The Mishcon de Reya blog has more information here.
The government has published its response to a consultation on the upcoming Data Reform Bill. The response outlines plans to reduce burdens on business by enabling organisations to create flexible and proportionate compliance regimes. It includes proposals for improved data sharing practices to support delivery of public services, and commits to maintaining the robust standards of data protection crucial to protecting the public. The ICO response can be read here.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Hacked Off has an article on the “extremist loophole” in the Online Safety Bill. The news publishers’ exemption is designed to exempt posts on newspaper websites from independent regulation. In practice the exemption goes much further. It will exempt any organisation from regulation by Ofcom provided it has a UK office and meets a handful of vague and undemanding requirements. The article notes that “a dictator from anywhere could set up a front organisation in the UK and brand themselves a “recognised news publisher” and, under the terms of the bill, could make themselves exempt from regulation on social media.”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On 14 June 2022, a statement in open court [pdf] was made behalf of Labour Councillor Liza Begum, who has been given £30,000 libel damages from the BBC after the “racist” misidentification of her as an another politician with the same surname who was facing fraud allegations. The Press Gazette has more information here.
New Issued Cases
There were two defamation (libel and slander) claims and one data protection claim issued on the media and communications list last week.
Last Week in the Courts
As already mentioned, on 13 June 2022, Steyn J dismissed the libel claim in Banks v Cadwalladr.
On the same day there were a hearings in Dental Centre Turkey UK Ltd v Morley before Nicklin J and in Ismaik v Integral Media Strategies Limited before Collins Rice. J
On 14 June 2022, the Court of Appeal (Underhill V-P, Warby and Snowden LLJ) heard the appeal in the case of George v Cannell.
As mentioned above, on the same day there was a statement in open court in the case of Begum Liza Shahinur v BBC before Heather Williams J.
On 16 June 2022, there were hearings in the cases of MBR Acres v others before Nicklin J and GJE v FJV before Collins Rice J.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The owners of a jewellery store are taking the author of a Google review to court, arguing that the one-star critique was payback by a landlord over a rent dispute. Micheli Jewellery says the appraisal was not genuine and was made by a person with an axe to grind, the Age reports.
The Michael Geist blog has an article on the new Privacy Reform law (Bill C-27), criticising it for its similarity to the last privacy bill which never advanced to the committee stage.
The Norton Rose Fulbright Social Media Law Bulletin has produced a summary of Bill C-18, which will require digital media platforms (e.g., social media services, search engines) to compensate media outlets for news content made available on their platforms. Under Bill C-18, news content is made available if a platform reproduces news content or facilitates access to news content in any way.
The European Parliament has rejected the Council of the European Union’s latest consolidated text for the proposed Digital Services Act, Euractiv reports.
Europe’s top telecom regulator BEREC has published its revised net neutrality guidelines, which now prohibit broadband providers’ zero-rating offers that benefit select apps. Zero-rating is a practice where a carrier does not count some online activity against a customer’s monthly data cap. For example, many European carriers offer plans that do not count the data you use on Facebook or WhatsApp against your data cap. These often exempted the carriers’ own services and disproportionately benefited big platforms like Apple, Google, and Facebook, while small companies and European startups were left out. The Centre for Internet and Society commentary on the revised guidelines can be read here.
The Norton Rose Fulbright Social Media Law Bulletin has published its summary and response to the Consumer Protection Data Spotlight from the Federal Trade Commission, which provides insights that social media and digital assets are a “combustible combination for fraud” with nearly half of those who reported losing cryptocurrency to a scam saying that it “started with an ad, post, or message on a social media platform.”
Research and Resources
- Vaya, Dipesh, Need of Machine Learning techniques in Preserving Security and Privacy for robust Cloud Environment (2022), Poornima University
- Greenleaf, Graham, Now 157 Countries: Twelve Data Privacy Laws in 2021/22 (2022) 176 Privacy Laws & Business International Report 1, 3-8, UNSW Law Research
- Ferguson, Andrew Guthrie, Why Digital Policing is Different (2022), Ohio State Law Journal
- Saw, Cheng Lim and Yoong, Aaron, Throwing Stones in Glass Houses: Protecting Privacy under the Law of Nuisance (2021), Tort Law Review (Forthcoming)
Next Week in the Courts
On 20-21 June 2022, there will be applications in MBR Acres Limited and others v Free the MBR Beagles (formerly Stop Animal Cruelty Huntingdon) before Nicklin J.
On 20-24 June 2022, there will be a trial in the case of Robert Lee v Vanessa Brown before Collins Rice J
On 22 June 2022, there will be an application in Koutrouchi v Currie Appeal before Johnson J
On 23-24 June 2022, there will be applications in Piepenbrock v LSE before Heather Williams J.
On 24 June 2022, there will be an application in Banks v Cadwalladr before Steyn J.
George v Cannell, heard on 14 June 2022 (Underhill V-P, Warby and Snowden LLJ)
The Duke of Sussex v Associated Newspapers, heard on 9 June 2022 (Nicklin J).
Wright v McCormack, heard on 23 May 2022 (Chamberlain J).
Vardy v Rooney, heard on 10-13 , and 16, 17 and 19 May 2022 (Steyn J).
BW Legal Services v Trustpilot A/S, heard 17 and 18 May 2022 (Tipples J)
LCG v. OVD, heard on 4 May 2022 (Murray J).
XXX v Persons Unknown , heard on 12 April 2022 (Chamberlain 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).
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).