The encrypted-messaging app Signal has said that it will stop providing its services in the UK if the Online Safety Bill undermined the privacy of its messaging system, BBC reports. Critics say the law may require companies to scan encrypted messages for unlawful material. However, the government stated the bill is not a ban on end-to-end encryption and emphasised its importance for securing the safety of children online.
The media has faced backlash over its coverage over the disappearance of Nicola Bulley, murder of teenager Brianna Ghey and the domestic homicide of a mother and daughter in recent weeks. The Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, filed complaints with IPSO, OFCOM and Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about the media coverage, which she called ‘sensationalist and victim blaming’. However, articles in the Telegraph and Press Gazette challenge the allegations of press misconduct.
The privacy group, Big Brother Watch, placed spoof Chinese spy balloons outside Parliament to protest against the use of surveillance cameras made by Chinese state-owned companies. The demonstration called on the government to ban the sale and operation of the technology.
In the House of Lords debate on the Public Safety Bill, Baroness Chakrabati suggested that it was necessary to tighten overly broad offences, such as causing alarm or distress, before making them priority illegal content for proactive removal from social media platforms. The Open Rights Group publicised the debate in a tweet, highlighting overlaps in the provisions of the Online Safety Bill and the Public Safety Bill.
Internet and Social Media
Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, have announced that it will begin trialing paid subscriptions for its social media platforms. The proposed subscription bundle, dubbed ‘Meta Verified’, would include account verification, protection from impersonation and access to increased visibility and support for USD $11.99 per month. The Guardian, Vox and Time analysed what implications of the subscription bundle for social media users.
Data privacy and data protection
Former PM, Sir Tony Blair and Lord Hague have backed the government’s plans to introduce digital ID cards, the BBC reports. The former party leaders argued that the change would modernise government records, making it easier and more secure for people to access public services. However, critics of the plan say that it will result in unnecessary data collection and intrusion on civil liberties. An opinion article in the Independent raised concerns about the privacy and security concerns relating to a government database. Read the Big Brother Watch also opposes the plans.
The US supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by the Wikimedia Foundation challenging the mass online surveillance practices of the National Security Agency. The lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit on the basis of state secrets privilege will consequently not be challenged. Wikimedia’s legal director responded to the decision, stating “The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant our petition strikes a blow against an individual’s right to privacy and freedom of expression—two cornerstones of our society and the building blocks of Wikipedia.” The decision was covered by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal.
Newspaper Journalism and regulation
In response to concerns that the National Security Bill could impact investigative journalism by criminalising reporters and whistleblowers, the Home Office proposed a series of amendments to the bill. The key change to the wording of the bill is that it will be an offence to disclose information or publish a news story that would ‘be likely to’ materially assist a foreign spy agency, rather than if it ‘may materially’ assist. However, media industry sources suggested that the amendments did not do enough and were in favour of a public interest defence for journalists and researchers. The Guardian and Press Gazette covered the media’s response to the changes.
- 11445-22 Arnott v express.co.uk, 1 Accuracy (2021), No breach – after investigation
- 11590-22 Lynch v kentonline.co.uk, 9 Reporting of Crime (2021), 6 Children (2021), 1 (Accuracy), No breach – after investigation
- 12091-22 Scott v The Courier, 4 intrusion into grief or shock (2021), 3 Harassment (2021), 2 Privacy (2021), 1 Accuracy (2021), Decision – No breach after investigation
- Resolution Statement – 12583-22 Leach v The Herald, 1 Accuracy (2021), Resolved – IPSO mediation
- 01910-22 Abusalama v The Jewish Chronicle, 1 Accuracy (2021), 2 Privacy (2021), 3 Harassment (2021), No breach – after investigation
- 02441-22 Dimond v Sittingbourne News Extra, 1 Accuracy (2021), No breach – after investigation
- 10204-22 Chowdhry v The Sun, 11 Victims of sexual assault (2021), 1 Accuracy (2021), 2 Privacy (2021), 3 Harassment (2021), No breach – after investigation
- 11587-22 Oakley v liverpoolecho.co.uk, 2 Privacy (2021), 3 Harassment (2021), 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2021), 6 Children (2021), No breach – after investigation
- Resolution Statement – 07950-23 Mainwaring v South Wales Argus, 14 Confidential sources (2021), 2 Privacy (2021), 1 Accuracy (2021), 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge (2021), Resolved – IPSO mediation
Statements in open court and apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
New Issued cases
There was one defamation (libel and slander) case, one injunction claim, one miscellaneous case and one harassment case issued on the Media and Communications list last week.
Last week in the courts
On 20th February 2023, in the case of Smith & Anor v Surridge & Ors  EWHC 351 (KB), Judge Lewis found that the statements made by the defendant in a reference produced for the claimants’ new employer concerning safeguarding issues at their school carried a defamatory meaning.
On the same day Richard Spearman QC heard an application in the case of Delo v Wise Payments.
On 20 to 23 February 2023 Heather Williams J heard the trial in the case of Hay v Cresswell.
On 21 to 23 February 2023, Chamberlain J heard applications in the case of AEP and others v The Labour Party (QB-2021-001074).
On 22 February 2023 there was a hearing in the case of VLM v LPB (KB-2023-000117). On 23 February 2023 there was a hearing in the case of Frati v Bowen Carter (QB-2021-002600).
PrivSec is an event for data protection, privacy and security professionals taking place in London on 28th February and 1st March 2023. Talks include new developments in EU digital law and how a standard regulatory structure for data protection could be implemented. Tickets are available here.
Media law in other jurisdictions
On 21 February 2023, an application to join additional respondents and amend the original statement of claim in defamation proceedings was granted in the case of Murdoch v Private Media Pty Ltd (No 4)  FCA 114.
In the case of Burston v Hanson (No 2)  FCA 113, the judge found that there was no basis for departing from the ordinary rule of costs following a defamation judgement in favour of the applicant. The respondent was ordered to pay the applicant’s costs.
In response to Canada’s Online News Act, which would force Google to pay publishers for their content, the search engine has blocked certain users from accessing the news. In a move which mirrors tactics employed by Facebook in response to Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, the news-block experiment is expected to impact 4% of Canadian users. Reuters, the Press Gazette and CBC cover what President Trudeau calls Google’s “terrible mistake”.
A number of LGBTQ+ and human rights groups have written to Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, urging him to reform the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). The letter points to the DPC’s enforcement record, including steps taken by the European Data Protection Board to overrule its decisions, and calls for an independent review of how to strengthen and reform the Commission. The Joint Open Letter can be found on here.
On 21 February 2023, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Gonzalez v. Google LLC (No. 21-1333). The issue is whether section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act protects internet platforms when their algorithms make targeted recommendations using content from other providers. The lawsuit, which was filed by the family of an American woman who was killed in an ISIS attack, alleges that Google aided and abetted terrorism by recommending ISIS videos to users through its algorithms. An analysis of the case is available on the SCOTUS blog and from the ACLU. CNN also covered the hearing.
Digital rights campaigners have raised concerns about plans to build a new ‘Cyber City’, nicknamed New Harare. Zim CyberCity will require investment of USD $60bn, and will comprise of upmarket residential areas, offices and information technology hubs. However, critics worry about the promises to install surveillance technology, which is directly connected to law enforcement authorities, as they fear it could be misused to target protestors and opposition activists. New Zimbabwe analysed the potential implications of the technology.
Research and Resources
- Schirch, Lisa, The Case for Designing Tech for Social Cohesion: The Limits of Content Moderation and Tech Regulation (2023), Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Forthcoming.
- Hoetger, Lori A., Kids These Days: Social Media, Evolving Expectations of Privacy, and Implications for the Fourth Amendment (2023), University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming.
- Burri, Mira, Cross-Border Data Flows and Privacy in Global Trade Law: Has Trade Trumped Data Protection? (2023), Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Vol. 39:1 (2023), 85–97.
- Jia, Mark, Authoritarian Privacy (2023). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 91, 2023.
- Kröger, Jacob Leon, The Privacy-Invading Potential of Sensor Data (2022), Adapted from: Kröger, J. L. (2022). Rogue Apps, Hidden Web Tracking and Ubiquitous Sensors. Doctoral dissertation, Technische Universität Berlin, pp. 3–24.
- Anidjar, Leon Yehuda and Packin, Nizan Geslevich and Panezi, Argyri, The Matrix of Privacy: Data Infrastructure in the AI-Powered Metaverse (2023).
- D’Amico, Alessia Sophia, Market Power and the GDPR: Can consent given to dominant companies ever be freely given? (2023), Utrecht University School of Law Research Paper Forthcoming.
Next week in the courts
On 27 and 28 February 2023, Nicklin J will hear applications in the case of CR and others v Paymaster (1836) Limited trading as Equiniti.
On 28 February 2023 there will be a hearing in the case of Global Processing Services (UK) Limited v Yanpolsky and another (QB-2022-0001810.
On 1 March 2023 there will be a hearing in the case of Johnson -v- Hammond QB-2022-001683
On 2 and 3 March 2023 there will he a hearing in the case of Soriano v Forensic News LLC & ors QB-2020-002450
AEP and others v The Labour Party, 21 to 23 February 2023 (Chamberlain J)
Hay v Cresswell, heard 20 to 23 February 2023 (Heather Williams J)
Banks v Cadwalladr, heard 7 February 2023 (Sharp P, Singh and Warby LJJ)
Amersi v Leslie, heard 10 January 2023 (Nicklin J)
Aaronson v Stones, heard 12-15 December 2022 (Julian Knowles J)
LCG v OVD, heard on 4 May 2022 (Murray J)
This Round Up was compiled by Jasleen Chaggar who is studying the BPC at the University of Law.
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