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Britain's Got The Next Terri Schiavo
May 13, 2011 4:51 AM   Subscribe

British "super-injunctions" goes one step further: "A High Court judge has issued an injunction which bans publication of information on Twitter and Facebook."

From the Independent article: "Her mother applied to the Court of Protection, which deals with cases of those who are unable to make their own decisions on medical care or other issues, for an order that those who are looking after M could withdraw nourishment and medical treatment and allow her to die, while giving her the care and treatment she needed to suffer the least distress and maintain as much dignity as possible.
(...) both Twitter and Facebook are run by companies in the United States, outside the jurisdiction of the English courts, which could make it extremely difficult to trace the identity of anyone who posted material."

What will Twitter do now? Nothing?
posted by iviken (29 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Twikileaks
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:00 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"both Twitter and Facebook are run by companies in the United States, outside the jurisdiction of the English courts"

Facebook has already responded to this sort of request by the English courts. Which suggests that they might well do so again. Here's the Judgment - the short version is: guy set up a FB profile in the name of a former friend, and a group mocking the former friend. FB provided info about the creator of the group (see para 10 of the judgment).
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:05 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, this is at least a half-decent use for a super-injunction.

On the other hand… Do judges really think they can keep this up? It's like making legislation to make it illegal for the tide to come in.
posted by dudekiller at 5:10 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Doesn't this post mix up super injunctions with just-plain injunctions?
posted by Jofus at 5:13 AM on May 13, 2011


Presumably this isn't a super-injunction, since the Independent is reporting on it. (I think it's only super if they're forbidden from the revealing that there is an injunction.)

Not sure it actually means much that this specifically mentions Facebook and Twitter, I think they would have been implicitly included in previous injunctions as "public computer network".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:15 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to get upset about this particular instance, unless I'm missing something. It seems perfectly reasonable for this woman's family to want privacy for themselves and their daughter. The only unusual thing is that it specifically mentions Twitter and Facebook. The Indie article says:

"The normal orders issued by the Family Division judges to prevent identification of children and others involved in cases simply ban publication of specified information in "any newspaper, magazine, public computer network, internet website, sound or television broadcast or cable or satellite programme".

so it's really no different except that it's been specific in reminding people that those two sites are included. I don't see that it's that closely related to the controversial superinjunctions, where the criticism is that they favouring the rich (and have been mostly used by men) and that they are overly secretive (in that they also ban anyone from even revealing that they exist).

The difficulty of enforcing an injunction in relation to things published in other jurisdictions and/or on the internet rather than paper is the same as it's always been.
posted by penguin pie at 5:15 AM on May 13, 2011


Re: Telling Americans what to do and talk about

Dear Ms. Windsor,

Please curb your corgis. They appear to be pissing all over my morning tweets. If it happens again I'm going to have to send in Seal Team 6 to deal with it

Cheers,

BHO 2
posted by humanfont at 5:44 AM on May 13, 2011


good luck with that
posted by LogicalDash at 5:55 AM on May 13, 2011


both Twitter and Facebook are run by companies in the United States, outside the jurisdiction of the English courts, which could make it extremely difficult to trace the identity of anyone who posted material.

A specious difference: the point it seems is to prove a violation of law by Twitter and Facebook, then turn to the enablers - the networks which carry this traffic and which are definitely under the purview of English law. The bits stop there.

If Twitter and Facebook cannot comply with UK law to the extent carriers are free from legal judgement, can network carriers continue to carry their traffic?
posted by three blind mice at 6:11 AM on May 13, 2011


A specious difference: the point it seems is to prove a violation of law by Twitter and Facebook, then turn to the enablers - the networks which carry this traffic and which are definitely under the purview of English law. The bits stop there.

"We can't seem to cure this pesky athlete's foot, so off with your leg!"

Although I don't have much faith in people's will to rise up and force their governments to serve the people, I think cutting off Facebook would come close to inciting a revolution. Take my money, imprison my friends, but DAMN MY EYES if I'll let that crop of strawberries rot in the field!

More importantly, Facebook and Twitter have no shortage of competition. Explicitly blocking them would just shift traffic to another dozen of the Hydra's heads.
posted by pla at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2011


This is not really a new problem or one with an unknown fallout. British courts injunct British press from naming names all the time, and those names are promptly named by foreign press almost immediately. They are then re-tweeted by British nationals living within the UK. None of that has any legal consequence, because the injunction has not been breeched by the party injuncted: the British press.

While I have not read the decision, I am fairly sure this injunction specifically bars the News of the World or any other press outlet from naming this woman or the facility she is housed in, but cannot and does not seek to bar her name or the facility name from appearing on Twitter or Facebook at all.

Having said that, I should probably go find and read the decision but it's the middle of my work day so I will do that in a bit. I'd be very interested to read what it actually says rather than what the Indo implies it says. They are in the business of selling news, after all.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:23 AM on May 13, 2011


Popbitch just got their own Superinjunction
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:48 AM on May 13, 2011


Re: Telling Americans what to do and talk about

Dear Ms. Windsor,

Please curb your corgis. They appear to be pissing all over my morning tweets. If it happens again I'm going to have to send in Seal Team 6 to deal with it


I don't understand. Not everything that ever happens in the UK is to do with the Queen. Scotland has its own laws on libel, for one.
posted by mippy at 8:18 AM on May 13, 2011


British courts injunct British press from naming names all the time, and those names are promptly named by foreign press almost immediately.

Indeed - one of the names on the superinjunction (won't name them here because I don;t want to get our Blue Overlords in trouble) was widely commented on in the Spanish press.

One of the actors named on the Twitter feed (@injunctionsuper) I mixed up with another famous US actor with a similar name, so what I took away wasn't 'Huh, he's into [ticking trout]' but 'I didn't know that the star of [Lawyers Will Be Lawyering] was British...'
posted by mippy at 8:21 AM on May 13, 2011


"Presumably this isn't a super-injunction, since the Independent is reporting on it. (I think it's only super if they're forbidden from the revealing that there is an injunction.)"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:15 PM

I think that is called a hyperinjunction? I could be wrong.

Here's an interesting fact:

Number Crunching:

6 - Number of superinjunctions revealed on twitter last week

53 - Number of superinjunctions and anonymised privacy injunctions which Private Eye is aware of.

(Private Eye 1288 (current issue))

I personally feel it is all a put on by the rich and powerful - cause outrage over judges issuing these, call it an assault on democracy/freedon of the press, get legislation passed which settles the issue. Because with this administration, any legislation is going to benefit the needs of the rich and powerful, not the furtherance of democracy and freedom.
posted by marienbad at 8:58 AM on May 13, 2011


Wait, so it goes super - hyper - ultra, right? So if two super-injunctions ganged up, could they take down a hyper-injunction? Could three? How many super-injunctions could a healthy, unarmed ultra-injunction kill before it succumbed to exhaustion?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:09 AM on May 13, 2011


I'm actually saddened - but not shocked - that UK newscomics would think their job was to report the names and addresses of the people in such a case, rather than try to open up decent debate on the rights and wrongs of passive euthanasia.
posted by Jehan at 9:21 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do judges really think they can keep this up? It's like making legislation to make it illegal for the tide to come in.

What a silly cnut.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm actually saddened - but not shocked - that UK newscomics would think their job was to report the names and addresses of the people in such a case, rather than try to open up decent debate on the rights and wrongs of passive euthanasia.

Why? It is their job, effectively - tabloid news is heavily predicated on what celebrities are up to. People don't buy Closer magazine expecting The Economist, so why would they buy The Sun expecting The Spectator? Whether you think it's news or not, it sells papers for them, so for them it is.

Plus, many tabloids have a heavy right wing slant - I think only The Mirror is centre-left - so it would hardly be an open debate on some of these issues.
posted by mippy at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2011


I don't mean celebrities, I mean the woman who is minimally conscious and having her nourishment removed.
posted by Jehan at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2011


"Presumably this isn't a super-injunction, since the Independent is reporting on it. (I think it's only super if they're forbidden from the revealing that there is an injunction.)"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:15 PM

I think that is called a hyperinjunction? I could be wrong.


Yeah, I'm afraid you're wrong and TheophileEscargot is right about a superinjunction - it bars anyone from reporting the matter in hand and from reporting on its existence. A so-called hyperinjunction bars someone from discussing a matter with "members of Parliament, journalists and lawyers" apart from their own defence lawyers. How that is defensible, practically, or morally, I can't even imagine.
posted by penguin pie at 10:20 AM on May 13, 2011


Thanks for clearing that up Penguin Pie, although I am somewhat comfused now. So are there superinjunctions where the press can say "there is a superinjunction that stops us reporting on this," and others where they cannot say "there is a superinjunction"?

Also, how does this work with regard to the parliamentary privilidge thing? Anyone know?

Also, 53!!!
posted by marienbad at 10:53 AM on May 13, 2011


Apparently lawyers are planning the mega-injunction, which actually bars even the judge from knowing about it, and the ultra-injunction, in which not even the subject knows that there is an injunction, and when they query why the lawyers are billing them the lawyers say sorry, can't tell you.
posted by reynir at 10:57 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long before they issue an injunction making it a crime to think about said injunction?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:00 AM on May 13, 2011


I confess to a little ambivalence about the celeb-related injunctions. On the one hand, I don't think that the tabs should be delving into people's private lives when it is not in the public interest to know. On the other hand, I don't think that an actor or a sportsman who has sex with a prostitute should then be able to plead 'oh my poor family' when the prostitute decides to tell people hey, guess who I've just had as a punter.
posted by reynir at 11:12 AM on May 13, 2011


I personally feel it is all a put on by the rich and powerful - cause outrage over judges issuing these, call it an assault on democracy/freedon of the press, get legislation passed which settles the issue. Because with this administration, any legislation is going to benefit the needs of the rich and powerful, not the furtherance of democracy and freedom.

Quite. The fuss is 1% "Guardian reporting on oil companies poisoning people in Africa" and 99% "Criminal enterprises such as News of the World making Murdoch ever richer and more powerful with phone taps and trips through your knicker drawer".
posted by rodgerd at 11:46 AM on May 13, 2011


I am somewhat comfused now. So are there superinjunctions where the press can say "there is a superinjunction that stops us reporting on this," and others where they cannot say "there is a superinjunction"?

Strictly speaking, the former are not superinjunctions, they're just injunctions, like the one in the OP.

Here's an interesting article about the difference, which says, as you're alluding to, that the difference is eroding and the word superinjunction is starting to be used in wider and wider circumstances.

It also explain the Parliamentary privilege issue - basically, privilege means that reporters are allowed to report what's said in Parliament without restriction. So if an MP talks about a superinjunction that was previously unreportable, that speech can be reported. And, practically speaking, once that's done, the cat is out of the bag so people may subsequently end up reporting the existence of the superinjunction in other contexts without reference to the blabbermouthed MP.

(IANALbutIAAJ albeit one who studied media law quite a long time ago so quite happy to be corrected!)
posted by penguin pie at 1:25 PM on May 13, 2011


posted by hattifattener at 1:46 PM on May 13, 2011


Sorry Jehan - I wondered why the disconnect! I didn't hear about the medical case until a little later on.
posted by mippy at 4:41 AM on May 16, 2011


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