Showing posts with label Free Speech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Free Speech. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Free As A Bird?

Some maybe aware that blogger Old Holborn was under investigation for posting offensive tweets about the Hillsborough disaster and Denise Bulger the mother of 2 year old James Bulger who was tragically murdered. It now seems that he will not be prosecuted for offensive tweets after the Criminal Prosecution Service said "there is no case to answer".

In some ways one appreciates that common sense has prevailed - Twitter is only a medium with which to express views and opinions which largely should be unhindered by prosecution expect for obvious cases like incitement to violence.

But there for me any sympathy ends for the predicament Old Holborn found himself in. With freedom comes responsibility.  He complained bitterly that his tweets led to death threats against his work colleagues and family. While one doesn’t condone such threats, the only person who put his family and his work colleagues in that position was the man himself.

He wrote those tweets knowing full well they would provoke a reaction. Writing jokes about tragedies where people, particularly young people who have perished, will provoke a reaction. To pretend it won't is dishonest. For example walk into a pub on a Friday night and randomly insult the nearest bloke you can find then you can expect to leave with your nose smeared across your face. Free speech eh? Simply to say “just ignore me” as Old Holborn tries to argue is either woefully naïve or at worst deceptive.

And it is with some irony that Old Holborn who so dislikes authority and the establishment so much mocks a city that has been royally screwed by those very same institutions.
I still have the right to upset a few grief city victim whores 
It makes me wonder which side he truly is on.

Of course he "still has the right to upset" but it's revealing that he does so behind a mask of internet anonymity. It's the equivalent of ‘smoking behind bike sheds’ at school, daring to challenge authority but not quite being brave enough to smoke openingly in front of teachers.

One is reminded of the time that opposition football fans used to, not long after the Bradford fire in 1985, set light to tissue paper and wave it at Bradford fans to mock them - to provoke them. That was its purpose. Offensive it was, free speech it was, but crucially it was only done with "safety in numbers" and anonymity by virtue of being in a crowd. Making such a gesture while being on your own, for obvious reasons, was not going to happen.

Thus if Old Holborn truly cared about testing the limits of free speech then he could take his views about "a city of grief victim whores" to the city itself. Appear on their local radio making his case or even stand along Scotland Road and make his case in public. He won't of course and we all know why.

Rather like Iain Dale he's a coward. Hiding behind a mask of anonymity and egged on by supporters also hiding behind anonymity it's much easier to make these points on the internet.

It's about time the man grew up.

Friday, 11 May 2012

No Longer Free

I wanted to think Cranmer was on a wind up when I read his piece here. But no. In an almost rational-defying move by the Advertising Standards Authority it is investigating Cranmer for carrying an ad on his blog on behalf of the Coalition for Marriage, which I reproduce above. Apparently complaints have been made that it is 'offensive and homophobic'. 
Apparently there have been a number of complaints about one of the advertisements His Grace carried on behalf of the Coalition for Marriage. He has been sent all manner of official papers, formal documentation and threatening notices which demand answers to sundry questions by a certain deadline. He is instructed by the ‘Investigations Executive’ of this inquisition to keep all this confidential.

Since His Grace does not dwell in Iran, North Korea, Soviet Russia, Communist China or Nazi Germany, but occupies a place in the cyber-ether suspended somewhere between purgatory and paradise, he is minded to ignore that request. Who do these people think they are?
Quite. I'm not sure how Cranmer will reply to the investigation, I would be tempted to give the 'Arkell v. Pressdram (1971)' response.

Good luck to His Grace. And if anything it has at least convinced me that I need to move this blog away from a UK domain urgently - a move I've been mulling over for a little while.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

We Will Remember Them

The Telegraph reports that the EU wants the "digital right to be forgotten":
Embarrassing, inaccurate or simply personal data will have to be deleted from the internet and company databases if consumers ask, under a new set of European laws.
The move will mean that social networks such as Facebook or Twitter will have to comply with users' requests to delete everything they have ever published about themselves online. It will also mean that consumers will be able to force companies that hold data about them, such as for Tesco's Clubcard, to remove it. 
Naturally it being the Telegraph and all matters EU this isn't actually recent news. The EU have been keen to do this for some time. Eager to update the 1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC), here's the EU Commission's paper in 2010 (page 9):
"...clarifying the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’, i.e. the right of individuals to have their data no longer processed and deleted when they are no longer needed for legitimate purposes. This is the case, for example, when processing is based on the person’s consent and when he or she withdraws consent or when the storage period has expired;"
And from a "EU data protection reform – frequently asked questions":
For example, there should be a "right to be forgotten," which means that individuals should have the right to have their data fully removed when it is no longer needed for the purposes for which it was collected. People who want to delete profiles on social networking sites should be able to rely on the service provider to remove personal data, such as photos, completely.
Similarly, users should know and understand about how their internet use is being monitored for the purposes of behavioural advertising. For example, people should be aware when online retailers use previously viewed web sites as a basis to make product suggestions.
It is also important that individuals are informed when their data has been unlawfully accessed, altered or destroyed by unauthorised persons. The Commission is therefore considering extending the obligation to notify personal data breaches beyond the currently covered telecommunications sector to other areas, such as the financial industry.
And the reason the EU is keen on this is relatively simple, it allows another power grab which leads onto more regulation of the internet, dressed up as 'looking after our interests', as well as another important persuasive factor:
The changes...also include a new EU power to fine companies up to 2 per cent of their global turnover if they breach the rules.
More potential coffers in the kitty, how convenient.

But despite this, going by the comments under the Telegraph article the EU move appears to be depressingly popular - "at last the EU does something useful" is a common one. The irony of complaining about lack of privacy on the internet a comment on the internet appears to be lost; epitomised by this gem (click to enlarge):

One wonders why you'd complain about internet privacy when voluntarily signing up to a 'social networking' website where the fundamental business model is based on sharing information.

Then there's the practicalities - one man's privacy is another's free speech. What if you want to as an example, years later, erase a photograph of yourself on Facebook being embarrassingly drunk but the other chap in the picture finds it highly amusing and wants to retain it? Whose rights come first?

What if you're on a protest and photographed by a newspaper who then advertises their story on Facebook. Should you be able to insist Facebook remove the picture? This would surely be tantamount to censorship. And we all know where these kind of 'helpful' laws' eventually end up:
Wikipedia is under a censorship attack by a convicted murderer who is invoking Germany’s privacy laws in a bid to remove references to his killing of a Bavarian actor in 1990.
And there's the technicalities. Is it possible to request that every bit of data that might identify you is erased? For example removing IP addresses, logs and timestamps? The list would be endless and is impossible to enforce. What about demanding that even your request for deletion gets deleted?

In summary, what we have is an unelected and unaccountable Government body wanting to regulate the internet, and thus by implication free speech, on the pretext of our own protection. That, history tells us, never leads to anywhere good.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

By Mistake?

I'm intrigued by this from the Guardian at the bottom of their article on Manchester United:

Comments opened by mistake? Going by the overwhelming negative comments below the article one can't help feeling that the Guardian is a little sensitive when its journalism is called into question.

Comment is free? Yes, but only on our terms.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

How To Silence A Country...

...with just 2 people (my emphasis):

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson caused offence when he described a car as "speciale needs" - a play on its proper name, Ferrari F430 Speciale.

Media regulator Ofcom investigated after receiving two complaints.

That's right, just 2 bloody complaints - out of an audience of millions:

Ofcom ruled that "the comments made by Jeremy Clarkson in this instance were capable of causing offence."

It went on: "While obviously intended as a joke and not aimed directly at an individual with learning difficulties, the comment could easily be understood as ridiculing people in society with a particular physical disability or learning difficulty."

So? When has offending people been a reason to curb free speech? It was even post-watershed. Anyway here's the offending episode (relevant comments 3.10 mins in):

What are you going to do about that Ofcom?

Update: I know the video's the 'wrong' way round, it looks like someone has uploaded it wrong. To try to get round it I've downloaded it off youtube onto my pc but as yet I still can't 'right' it. Perhaps that's another thing Ofcom may get offended about.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Victory For Free Speech

I'm not sure why it's taken four months to make the decision, but the PCC has finally rejected a complaint against Jan Moir's now notorious article regarding the sad death of Stephen Gately.

The article itself was published the day before Stephen's mum had to bury her own son, and was liberally sprinkled with homophobic innuendo; describing events leading up to his death as "sleazy" and "less than respectable" and "whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one".

Given the timing of the article it seemed that Moir's aim was along the lines of; 'here's a grieving mum, let's really lay the boot in for fun'. Not pleasant reading and the article received more than 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. Despite the poisonous nature of the column, however, I do agree with the PCC's ruling:
As a general point, the Commission considered that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they may be. The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law)".
Iain Dale thinks the PCC has 'wimped out' I disagree, the PCC have ruled in favour of free speech, and rightly so. If Moir wants to reveal to the world that she's a deeply unpleasant woman then she should be allowed to do so. We don't have to read it or buy the paper.

Aside from the nastiness of Moir, there was another aspect of this whole unsavory incident that seems to be overlooked - the disturbing bullying nature of Stephen Fry's smug and sanctimonious twitter followers. Would the Press Complaints Commission really have received a record number of complaints, if not for this tweet by Stephen Fry:
I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.
Some of the subsequent tweets by Stephen's followers, attacking Moir, were clearly competing with her for the 'most offensive comment that could be made' award. So much so, you can almost hear the screeching of tyres as Fry seems to make an embarrassed hasty retreat:
I feel sorry for her because I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity.
And it's not been the only time such an incident has occurred, as one twitter user found out when he had the temerity to say that Fry was boring, which led to him being viciously attacked by hundreds of followers, including Alan Davies.

Free speech is only a crime on one side of the political fence it seems. Moir clearly intended to offend, but she has every right to do so. There was no need for the involvement of the PCC - the best punishment has already been imposed; she is now tarnished, forever known as the woman that wrote that article.

Ultimately, the only reputation Moir destroyed was not Gately's but her own.