May 24, 2011 - Comments Off on Super Shhhh
So the truth is out, the footballer is named and shamed officially (in Parliament no less) and now everyone will leave him alone, stop talking about it and go back to trying to dish the dirt on the next celebrity. Or will they? On Twitter today the hashtag #superinjunction this morning says otherwise.
It seems to me that this super injunction fiasco has really been about what we don’t know rather than what we do. A Twitter account holder by the name of Billy Jones, (@injunctionsuper) embraced the chattering cloud of gossip element of Twitter and revealed the list of people who had taken out super-injunctions on 8th May. This was complete with the reasons why the injunctions were in place, including in this case that it was Imogen Thomas and Ryan Giggs who had had an extra marital affair.
Celebrity =public property = public right to know
This caused a self righteous uproar from the online populace- how dare anyone pay to hide information from us, in this open age of freedom of tweet?! Once people knew that there were injunctions in place it has been a scramble to find out the details. But why should we know the details? A footballer, or a celebrity personality has had an affair is hardly a headline that the people of Britain haven’t seen before. This story has become less about the people in question and more about the public believing they have a right to know, and how we consume, share and discuss information.
Pressure and the press
The BBC pointed out the day after that the fact that a super-injuction even exists is not supposed to be public knowledge, but a protected secret. The Mail Online said the outing of the information online ‘exposed the total inadequacy of court rulings which gag the press – but have no effective control over what is published online.’ The Sun, however, (and Imogen Thomas) were still unable to get the gagging order lifted yesterday, the Guardian reports, despite everyone already knowing anyway. The ‘go on you might as well let us report it now’ attempt followed the Scottish Sunday Herald publishing a badly disguised photo of Giggs on the front page of the paper, which might as well have left his eyes uncovered. Mr Justice Eady explained his reasoning to be that at if least some privacy can be preserved then he would endeavour to make that so: ‘For so long as the court is in a position to prevent some of that intrusion and distress, depending upon the individual circumstances, it may be appropriate to maintain that degree of protection.”
Now while Justice Eady is right that the level of intrusion would be much worse if the press were allowed to report the details, you can’t gag over 70,000 people tweeting about something, but that is exactly what is being argued by those who took out the injunctions. How dare Twitter know about this? Twitter is lying and so on. If I had forked out to cover up a misdemeanor I would be complaining more to the provider of the clearly failed injunction- it is not Twitter’s fault that someone with a Twitter account knows something they shouldn’t- the injunction didn’t work. So Giggs decides to sue Twitter, making a small flame a massive bonfire. The Mirror reported on the action against Twitter, including a statement from Imogen’s PR man, the well known Max Clifford who thinks that suing Twitter was the wrong move, and that ‘the footballer’ should ‘stand up and be counted’.The Telegraph also reports that Max thinks it was the injunction that made the affair public knowledge, as Imogen never intended to speak up.
So why try and sue Twitter? Twitter don’t remove tweets based solely on content, and therefore seemingly protect this freedom of tweet. See this post by Shea Bennett on whether the super injunction Twitter account has been gagged, for more details on how Twitter have responded. It is interesting though, that at this point on 10th May, (prior to the news that Twitter were potentially being forced by the player’s lawyers to reveal the identity of the Tweeter) it was thought unlikely that the player would sue. Twitter today have tweeted from @twitterglobalpr ‘For all those who might be curious, we continue to not comment on rumors.’ This may seem like a strange statement for those who turn to Twitter as a rumour mill, however there are many of us who use Twitter for business, debate and conversation that does not involve celebrity gossip.
Super-injunctions and search
The impact of super-injunctions on search so far is very interesting. To start with, it almost seemed like Google were stopping auto-complete sharing more information than it should but controlling the filter when users typed in ‘imogen thomas’ or similar. This is discussed and explained in excellent detail here by Shaun Anderson. Will Google have to be more careful about suggesting associated phrases in auto-complete now that the information is public knowledge? As Shaun says ‘only Google knows’… but I doubt that Google can be gagged.
Some have argued that what we don’t know can’t hurt us; and if we don’t share it we can’t be penalised, but what if you’ve just heard it on the Twitter-vine? Are you then party to breaking an injunction? The jury is still out on that one.
I’m of the opinion that if you do something that you don’t want anyone to find out, it is probably the most important thing you’ll ever reveal! Trying to cover up a mistake is worse than the fact that you’ve made it in the first place. I’m human, I’ve done things I’ve regretted- I do not presume to place myself in a position to judge. I do think, however, that if you mess up you should own up and then there is actually a chance that things will eventually heal.
Obviously my opinion isn’t the only opinion here at Bloom so I asked around for people’s thoughts. There are some strong views:
‘I think the whole thing was purely down to Ryan Giggs’ refusal to face the consequences. He isn’t a big enough star for anyone to have given a monkeys about him. If he had done nothing, I can’t see many people being interested, he certainly doesn’t have the public appeal to sell paper as much as someone like David Beckham or Wayne Rooney.I feel sorry for his wife and kids, but have no sympathy for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the attempt of a aging footballer trying to create a buzz before his retirement-I can’t image it will be long before a “Giggsy tells all” story appears in a paper.’ Andrew Markham-Davies
‘A classic example of the ongoing war between freedom of speech and personal privacy. Celebrity journalism has been the battleground where this issue has been most closely fought since we all became obsessed with reading trash like OK Magazine; don’t confuse the medium with the issue at hand.’ Stu Turner
‘How about people stop doing things they’ll be ashamed of and want to hide?’ Sara Galbiati
‘I use Twitter for industry news. My friend has just joined Twitter to follow the ‘reality fame hunters’ that seem to take up so much of our time and distract us from our own dull little lives! I guess she uses it to find out the ‘real’ (if you can call it that) things that they get up to and the whole truth not the slanderess pap you read in trashy magazines and red tops. Apparently Holly Willoughby’s Twitter followers were the first to find out about the birth of her baby – she tweeted the news 20 mins after giving birth before the media could get their grubby little hands on the ‘breaking story’!! Ria Evans
Q & A with our head of Development and Innovation:
Me: ‘What do you think about the use of Twitter to break the super-injunction (and effectively the law)?’
Dan Akers: ‘Gossip is the oldest social network in existence… It’s never been controlled by law.’
Me: ‘Do you think freedom of Tweet is above the law?’
Dan Akers: If 1 person turns up outside parliament and starts protesting, the police arrest them. If 10,000 people turn up, the police do their best to control them and move them on. Same thing.’
Me: ‘Do you feel sorry for Ryan Giggs?’
Dan Akers: ‘Not even 1%.’
Today the BBC has reported the Prime Minister has described what is happening as ‘unsustainable, with privacy law evolving through judgements and information circulating on the internet’ and MPS are agreeing that the ‘law is not working’.
Could it be that gags will be removed in future and the un-handed press and Twitterers released to report and tweet their worst? Or perhaps this super shhhhh law will go the other way and become more powerful. I for one will follow the developments with interest, and be curious to see the reactions of both sides of the arguement, gagged and gagger alike.