It’s been an interesting and controversial week in the media.
On Monday, the Guardian published a mysterious article which said that they were unable to report an MP’s written question to a minister because a legal injunction prevented them from doing so. In other words, a law firm had stopped a British newspaper from even reporting on the proceedings of the British Parliament. They weren’t even allowed to name the MP or the law firm who issued the injunction.
This outrageous attempt to stifle the freedom of the press and the supremacy of Parliament was then foiled… by Twitter, as thousands of people joined in defending the Guardian’s freedom of speech.
What a lot of people knew, because it was an ongoing story (news value: continuity), was that the question to Parliament concerned the activities of Trafigura, an oil company accused of poisoning people by illegally dumping toxic waste in Ivory Coast. This fly-tipping on an industrial scale occurred in August 2006.
The BBC started reporting on the contents of the cargo in May this year, and were immediately sued by Carter Ruck, the law firm acting for Trafigura. Trafigura, by the way, had already kind of admitted liability in the case by paying $100 million to the Ivory Coast government.
In September, the Guardian reported that it had seen internal emails (pesky new media again) which indicated an attempt by Trafigura to cover up the extent of the contamination, and their knowledge about the dangerous nature of the cargo about to be dumped.
In a well-timed piece of satire, the The Daily Mash is suggesting that Carter Ruck might now sue everybody on Twitter, the Post Office, and anyone who looks at them funny. Snip:
He added: “As for Trafigura, our clients have stated consistently that they only ever intended to poison the west African coastline with 400 billion gallons of shit in a perfectly legal way.”
Nikki Hollis, a Twitter from Grantham, said: “OMG Im going 2 b taken to the fkn cleaners! Nu shoes or legal advice – wat 2 do?!?”
Meanwhile Twitter’s ability to reshape the democratic agenda was further underlined today with “trending topics” including chocolate milk and paranormal activity, as well as a campaign demanding Lily Allen makes another album full of nursery-rhyme cock.
In other news, elsewhere on the internet, Ralph Lauren were being embarrassed by the web site Photoshop Disasters, who spotted a model in an advert whose head was bigger than her pelvis. Instead of apologising for distorting the female body image even more, Ralph Lauren got their law firm to issue a take down notice to the site, claiming breach of copyright.
If they’d understood the copyright law at all, they might have noticed the bit about “fair use” when it comes to criticism. While Google (hiss) complied automatically with the takedown notice, the far more legally aware BoingBoingers came out fighting, publishing even more criticism of Ralph Lauren, and encouraging people to re-Photoshop the model to make her look like a normal human being.
In a final act of complete stupidity, Ralph Lauren chose that week of all weeks to fire the model in question for being “too big” to wear their clothes. As BoingBoing points out, the model is 5’10” and 120lbs (1.77m and 54.4 kg). In other words, she’s two inches shorter than me and weighs about 40 kilos less. But still too fat for Ralph Lauren, apparently.