The Sun had no compunction in naming the 15-year-old pupil suspected of fatally stabbing teacher Ann Maguire in Leeds. It referred to him in the third paragraph of its main inside article as “the alleged killer”.
The Times said the suspect had been “widely named on social media outlets”, but unlike its Wapping stablemate it did not use his name. However, it gave plenty of clues about his identity in its front-page report by revealing details of his appearance, family and online activity.
Other papers were much more circumspect. The Daily Mirror, for example, stated in print that “the alleged attacker cannot be named for legal reasons”. Oddly, this phrase was not in its online version. The Daily Telegraph stuck to the same traditional formula as the Mirror by refusing to reveal the boy’s identity.
Interesting article on the Telegraph about ignorance of the law when it comes to the internet. Interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it’s clear that the law is an ass in some cases (uploading a bit of shaky video you filmed at a concert: where’s the harm? Not as if your dodgy footage is likely to replace a professionally filmed concert DVD).
Secondly, ignorance of the law is probably widespread, period. Or people say they were ignorant of the law (“I didn’t know it was illegal to take manhole covers and lead from the church roof” etc.), but ignorance of the laws of defamation/libel, and/or incitement etc. is a special case. Journalists would be aware of these legal constraints, but only if you, say, studied the media at school, would you have your awareness of these issues raised.
But it’s a Mickey Mouse subject, innit?
More than 2,000 internet users, of a range of ages, were asked to chose from a series of scenarios under nine different headings, picking out which would be illegal.
One section asked people to imagine riots were again gripping London and other cities and chose from a series of fictional posting on sites such as Facebook or Twitter to say which would be illegal.
A surprisingly low 64 per cent agreed that the message “I’m going to smash up Clapham Boots, who’s with me?” would be illegal.
Only two thirds could see the danger in posting: “Hey, everyone let’s smash up London Bridge.”
When it came to less stark examples, people were even less cautious.Only 13 per cent could see the legal danger in posting the message “OMG the carnage in London is brilliant!” – a level which fell to as low as eight per cent among 16 to 24-year-olds.
Meet “Professor Strange”, aka “The Strange Mr Jefferies”, landlord of the murdered Joanna Yeates and a “suspect peeping Tom” – at least, and in order of quotation, according to the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. See pictures of “the blue-rinse bachelor” and read (or watch or listen, because TV and radio are deep into this game, too) what any available neighbours will say about him. Then, make up your own mind…
No: don’t! Indeed, wipe your mind blank and hurry on by, because Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, grows visibly alarmed. “We need to avoid a situation where trials cannot take place or are prejudiced as a result of irrelevant or improper material being published, whether in print form or on the internet, in such a way that a trial becomes impossible,” he warns. In short, the Contempt of Court Act is circling over the media, waiting to smite those who go too far.
Via BoingBoing, I recommend viewing this video of a videographer being hassled by London Community Support Officers. (I can’t embed the video because WordPress doesn’t like the format.) Thank goodness the guy stood up for his rights and forced the officers to stand down. Many other people would have caved, accepting that they were doing something “wrong”, and maybe even have felt guilty about it.
To reiterate: you’re allowed to film/photograph in a public place. It’s not illegal, and there is no reason it should be. No terrorist plot has ever involved the terrorists filming their targets in advance.
There is a petition on the Downing Street web site asking the PM to clarify the law, so that rent-a-cops and over zealous security guards don’t continue to hassle people like this.