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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Super Injunction? Not so super, actually

Originally posted 23rd May 2011

You can't possibly have not heard about it (I live 10,000 miles away and I know about it). The latest must have accessory for the rich, the powerful and the unfaithful. That's right. The super injunction. Essentially an uber gag order it legally obliges the media to not disclose certain secrets about certain misbehaving celebs and public figures for fear of being sued into the next world. Works in theory. The rich can keep their dirty little secrets and we, the public, continue on in blissful ignorance.

Except the super injunction, and to some extent privacy laws in general, do not allow for the nature of modern media, and certainly do not allow for the rise in social media. People no longer necessarily get their news from the mainstream media. The fact that Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson reportedly tweeted the news of Bin Laden's death before it hit any of the major news networks is testament to that. Many people I know use the likes of Twitter as a newsfeed, preferring the 'here and now'ness of the microblogging site to sitting down and watching the news on TV or reading about it via the newspapers.

One particularly high profile use of the super injunction has been the case of a 'well known premiership footballer' and poor former Big Brother starlet, Imogen Thomas. Ms Thomas was foolhardy enough to become embroiled in a seven month affair with this married 'well known premiership footballer' and by all accounts it ended badly. She has claimed that she never had any intention of making the relationship public, he's accused her of attempting to blackmail him. Either way, the truth is open to some debate as she, despite been thrown to the wolf pack of the press and the very interested public is subject to a gag order and can't really defend herself and he, despite being named (and in the case of a certain Scottish newspaper, pictured) is still, technically at least, under the protective shield of his expensively sought super injunction. However, Mr CTB (as he is known in the legal paperwork) has found that in many respects his super injunction has backfired upon him. Despite the fact that he cannot be legally nor officially named, he has in fact been named and most definitely shamed. A Twitter account set up with the sole aim of 'outing' celebs who have sought super injunctions to prevent the public uncovering of their indiscretions has seen to that. Whilst it also claimed a slew of innocent victims (poor Jemima Khan being notable for the accusation that she had been photographed in comprimising positions with Jeremy Clarkson - and out of interest did anyone even find that remotely plausible or believable?), it also outed the now notorious CTB.

Clearly, however, Mr CTB takes his privacy seriously and has now gone to the High Court in an attempt to force Twitter to hand over the details of the person responsible. Presumably, so he can can sue them into next week. However, this could well have been CTB's downfall. Whilst there was much chat on the identity of this mysterious, BB starlet shagging, high profile premiership footballer, it had, to a large extent started to die down. Other things were starting to fill the space taken up by this particular piece of celebrity non-news news. But now the Twittershphere is riled. The threat against Twitter (who in any likley event don't care, can't be compelled to comply and are loving the free publicity) has been seen as an attack on free speech. Over the last few days CTB's alleged real identity as been tweeted over and over. He is pictured in a thousand avatars. He is the butt of endless jokes and has been more effectively humiliated and poked fun at than he probably could possibly imagine when he first panicked about his infidelity coming out and went barrelling off to the solicitors office.

But why are people so angry about this? Is it really that they feel their free speech is being attacked? In part, yes. The internet and the rise in social networking has provided a voice to millions the world over and many do not see the distiniction over whether you use this voice to bring down an entrenched and corrupt leader somewhere in the Middle East or whether you use it to announce to the world who that bloke from that football team is slipping it to. The principle remains the same. People feel they have the right to say it like it is.

 However, I would contend there is more to it than that. I know there is from my point of view, at least. Philandering and faithless footballers are, as most of us know, ten a penny. Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Peter Couch... the list is as long as your arm. When the stories of these indescretions appear we invariably express, surprise, distain, indifference and a couple of days later its all but forgotten. These men are to many heroes and by and large their less palatable traits are soon overlooked as long as they're performing where it counts. This case seems to have unleashed a storm of anger that in some ways seems quite disproportionate to the crime. The issue of free speech, as I've touched on, plays its role, but there is something more than that. For me at least, the fact that this high profile philandering fuckwit, feels that he is so important that he somehow deserves the protection of the law against the savage barbarian hordes of the internet riles me more than his actual wrong doings. The sense of entitlement that this man must have that he feels that he deserves this special treatment, whilst the sad figure of Imogen Thomas is hung out for the moral high ground gang comment on her every action and pin the blame squarely at her door (something I find deplorable in itself, he was the married on not her, at worst she is gulity of criminal stupidity that she ever thought this would end well), whilst he hid behind his money. There is the argument that the whole thing was brought about by the desire to protect the family of the footballer in question, I would counter that by saying that really, he should have thought of that before he dropped his pants for someone other than his wife.

By all accounts the issue of super injunctions and internet privacy will be discussed in Parliament after the summer recess and I will be interested to see what conclusions they come up with and whether they conclude they can effectively police what people say via the likes of Twitter, at the same time another (slightly less high profile) premiership football star has also been outed has having obtained a super injunction, so it will be interesting to see what happens next in this particular story

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