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back to article Lord to sue Twitter users who falsely accused him of abuse

A former Tory Party treasurer has indicated that his solicitors will pursue anyone on Twitter who wrongly linked his name to false allegations of child abuse. Lord McAlpine, speaking emotionally on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, said he was utterly devastated by inaccurate claims that were reported on BBC2's …

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The Pedofinder General has found you guilty in the court of public opinion!

It's refreshing to see journalists finally showing a bit of common sense for once.

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Re: The Pedofinder General has found you guilty in the court of public opinion!

Recently, I've been reading books like Malleus Maleficarum as part of a pet project I'm working on. I am deeply grateful to the British public for giving me this opportunity to see what 15th century witch hunt was like.

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Anonymous Coward

Will probably not succeed if it goes to court

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure you can't be found guilty of naming him if what you said was "Someone has accused X of doing Y" as long as that statement is true. Neither can you be found guilty if you said "The person not named by Newsnight was X", if this was true. You would be in trouble if you said "X as done Y" or "X is a pedo"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Will probably not succeed if it goes to court

just out of interest, which letter of the alphabet is a peado?

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Meh

Re: Will probably not succeed if it goes to court

"It is not a defence for an individual to say that he was simply repeating a statement by someone else. Just because something is out there does not make it OK to repeat.

The courts consider each tweet to be a libel, and the more often it is repeated, the more damage it can do and the more libel actions it may provoke.

Furthermore, when it comes to proving the truth of the allegation, it is insufficient to point to the fact that somebody has been accurately quoted - the publisher has to prove the substance of the allegation.

In other words, if I were to make an allegation about my boss that is retweeted by my friend - my friend must be able to prove the allegation, not just simply that I had said it."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20299551

p.s. I hope this post's not a copyright infringement...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Will probably not succeed if it goes to court

"In other words, if I were to make an allegation about my boss that is retweeted by my friend - my friend must be able to prove the allegation, not just simply that I had said it."

Yes, but if you make an allegation about your boss and your friend tweets that "Symon claims that his boss..." then he is being truthful. Otherwise reporting any legal case is automatically libel. This is why on Have I Got News for You they are always tagging on "allegedly" because this means that they are simply claiming that someone else has made an allegation and they are commenting on that allegation rather than making one themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Will probably not succeed if it goes to court

J.

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FAIL

If you're relying on HIGNFY as legal gospel ...

I'll come visit you at Her Maj's pleasure.

UK libel laws are incredibly subtle, and easy to fall foul of. Just saying "allegedly" before a scurrilous statement would be no defence whatsoever, if a court felt you clearly intended to defame someone. Also, bear in mind that in the UK, veracity is not an automatic defence to libel. Which maybe why Jimmy Savile went unreported for so long. You could have found yourself facing a libel suit if you said "Jimmy Savile does a lot of work for childrens charities, and is famous for being surrounded by young girls on TOTP" in a context implying something less wholesome. Both statements true. But you could go down.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe if the torries had investigated the allegation at the time during the 80's this sort of mistaken identity thing wouldn't of happened.

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Seriously?

You're still trying to make this political?

(And doesn't "Torries" play for Chelsea?)

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Re: Seriously?

Nono, Torres was the engineer on Voyager.

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And, incidentally, "wouldn't have", not "wouldn't of".

You also slip into "no smoke without fire" fallacy.

0/10 would not give time of day.

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Wow, go directly to jail for pressing the wrong link on a web site ? Charming ...

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FAIL

I can see the point. But why should you be able to get away with trying to ruin someone's life, just because it was an easy button press online?

Try thinking about your fucking actions perhaps...

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Happy

Spardigus

"Try thinking about your fucking actions perhaps..."

"This is an interesting area, that's going to be an absolute bugger to deal with."

Considering the subject in hand (ooh err missus) -- a gem, a real gem.

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Stop

NO, not 'because it was an easy button press', because it was an easy mistake to make - hitting the wrong link on a page or mobile app happens a lot...

Will "I went for delete, but hit retweet" be a defence ?

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Meh

Libel is a civil offence, not a criminal one. There's no jail time involved unless you refuse to pay the fines (or undertake whatever reparation the court hands out), in which case you're attempting to commit fraud amongst other things. Even then it's kind of hard to get you in jail for it.

And since it's a civil matter there's no criminal record.

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@Tom - who knows? If we're in an age where a person can accidentally accuse a person of abusing children which then ends up (worst case scenario) with a mob of angry people outside the local paediatricians* demanding the "peado" come out because of the retweet then maybe you'll get into a bit of trouble.

* that actually did happen, a mob formed outside the house/clinic because, well, I guess the average IQ of a mob is a bit below George W Bush's, simply because they thought "hey, that's sweet, they actually advertise on the outside of the house, I'd so make a frikken good copper, I could solve any crime!". Got to love the people who read the Sun every day and believe everything the Sun wants them to believe........

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FAIL

er...

you'll find there *is* a criminal libel. And you really, really, really, really, really, really would not want to be charged with it, let alone found guilty. Ask Private Eye about "Goldenballs".

Criminal libel makes every person in the chain guilty. That's why WH Smiths stopped selling Private Eye for ages in the 70s and 80s. They were found guilty of criminal libel, and had to pay quite a bit.

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"NO, not 'because it was an easy button press', because it was an easy mistake to make - hitting the wrong link on a page or mobile app happens a lot...

Will "I went for delete, but hit retweet" be a defence ?"

Tom Chiverton 1,

I'd guess it would be a perfectly valid defence if you subsequently delete the tweet.

I tell you what it would make though, an excellent limerick:

One day Tom switched his phone on.

And noticed the media maelstrom.

He missed the delete,

And pressed his retweet

Now he's part of the whole Paedogeddon.

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Coat

Kinda off topic but...

...can you libel someone on a ballot paper? I believe the candidates get to see all the spoilt papers, of which mine will be one later on today...

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This is an interesting area, that's going to be an absolute bugger to deal with.

I would argue that one of the reasons we got super-injunctions is that the press started taking the piss. They don't like people getting injunctions against them, and with the modern era of t'internet, all you need to do is report that so-and-so has taken out an injunction, stoke the rumour mill online, until said rumour is so far into the public domain that the injunction is defeated. Then you can tell the court that everyone already knows this - so can we now report it please. I believe that's one of the reasons that courts then banned journos from even mentioning the injunction. Although the courts apparently aren't granting them any more.

There's debate on having a privacy law, which I don't see as viable in a world with an only slightly-regulated internet.

I guess we'll end up with more the American model of freedom of speech, where anyone can say anything - and you can't get a court injunction to stop them. You can of course sue after the event. Just on the grounds that it's so hard to keep things from being globally known now. Particularly as the media know they can pursue this route. So if you can't make a story stand up, all you need do is stoke the rumour mill, then watch the internet light up.

I know someone who's worked for the Torygraph and the Times, and it's interesting how much is just known in the small world of the Westminster/Media Village. It doesn't always leak out, but it's easy enough to find out. Now you don't even need to be in that world, or know someone, just know the right blogs/forums.

Interesting times ahead. [end ramble]

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Anonymous Coward

Well, as a Twitter User

I'm glad I mostly ignored that one (and more importantly, didn't re-tweet anything that might harm me while drunk). However, as right as the good lord might be in taking his online accusers to court, this does beg a question: How does the law deal with what amounts to acts of mass disobedience on social media?

It was all terribly funny when it came to the lurid details of a certain footballer and a super injunction, but accusing someone of being a paedophile is a deadly serious business.

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Anonymous Coward

Whilst Lord McAlpine can afford to take ordinary meatbags to court for defamation/slander whatever; the rest of us mere mortals would simply have to ignore such attacks against us. Courts are playgrounds for the rich not the poor.

So, a million Twatter users promptly defame him and Lord McAlpine has to work out if he can afford to file a million suits with the added annoyance that many of these users may not be in the UK.

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Go

Gives me an idea...

*goes off and invents "AutoSue" app for iPhone and Android!*

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Added annoyance

... and that they are linked to a "generic" email address e.g. hotmail, yahoo mail, etc

How does he propose to track these down ?

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Re: Added annoyance

"With technology", to quote the article, so Lord only knows (literally).

Given that Twitter are based outside the UK, I think he'd have troubles even finding out those emails to begin with. The only people he's going to be able to sue are those who have their real name listed on their profile, and who live in the UK. Probably not a huge number, but I guess this is more about proving his political clout than collecting any actual damages.

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Childcatcher

They got the wrong one

In the early 80s - around the time of the miner's strike - a journo friend of mine told me that all of Fleet Street was buzzing with a story about a senior Tory that was involved in a similar scandal. None of the papers published the name for reasons known only to them. I'm not going to mention the name either.

A couple of months later an episode of Spitting Image ran a sketch with two characters talking and the wall in the background was sprayed with graffiti that said:

The Tory in the sex scandal is LB

Those initials obviously don't fit McApline.

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Well hopefully...

This might do a little to wipe the smug grin from the terminally-irritating Mrs Bercow, and her equally offensive mini-spouse.

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Paris Hilton

I'm still baffled by all this....

I hear ******** is now suing Newsnight for not naming him and not giving him a chance to defend himself when they didn't name him in the first place. Oh and the Beeb DG got canned for Newsnight not naming this ******** bloke either. And the victim in all this didn't know who'd been at him, but only found out it wasn't ******** when someone showed him a picture of ********. In fact the only people who seemed to have fingered him (no pun) are those on twitter. So everyone is up shit creek (again no pun) because no one named someone except some twittophiles. Is that the gist of it or have I missed something here? Sorry, but this spot the paedista game got really boring a while ago and I feel asleep.

******** because, you know why. Given the subject matter, Paris obviously

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