Fri Nov 24, 2017 London
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EDITORIAL

Editorial comment from Matthew SteeplesOur editor tells it like it is and he rarely minces his words

Anti-Social Media

The law needs to be updated with regard to what is acceptable on social media; businesses such as Facebook and Twitter need to equally be held to account

 

Social media, as we’ve already reported, was proven to be anything but sociable in a London courtroom this week. With the jailing of the tweed gilet clad racist Viscount St Davids for 12 weeks for malicious communications came acceptance from the country’s most important magistrate, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, that “Facebook is not private” and that it is no longer a place where anything can be posted without repercussions applying.

 

Elsewhere, on Friday, outside of the realms of the law but again very much illustrative of the perils of posting without consideration of impact, the Mirror reported that Stella McCartney is said to be furious with David Beckham – a man known to use European privacy laws to have his own home obscured on Google – after he posted an un-pixelated image of a group of children at his daughter’s birthday party that included amongst others her six year old daughter on Instagram. Ms McCartney, a woman reportedly very protective of her child’s safety, is said to be “spitting feathers,” yet, as the paper concluded: “David Beckham has not taken the [liked by 900,000 individuals to date] post down.”

 

Previously decisions in civil cases – such as that of freelance journalist Dennis Rice vs. the crowdfunded news site Byline and media personality Katie Hopkins vs. blogger Jack Monroe – have highlighted that irresponsible and defamatory posts can be costly to the parties involved, with damages and legal bills awarded against Hopkins alone said to total some £130,000. Equally, as a contrast, such outcomes as Paul Chambers’ successful appeal against his conviction for tweeting about blowing an airport “sky high,” have also depressingly shown that regulation of what is acceptable is confused and in need of reform.

 

A most telling factor to consider is that the Communications Act came to statute in 2003 and as such really does not have any specific provision for activities conducted on mediums like Facebook – a for-profit company with revenues of £20.6 billion in 2016 and 2 billion active monthly users as of June 2017 – and Twitter – a for-profit company with revenues of £1.9 billion in 2016 and 328 million active users as of July 2017. Facebook was founded in February 2004 and Twitter in March 2006 and thus, though it is accepted that the Communications Act (2003) was appropriate back in the early noughties, it is now out of date and no longer fit for purpose.

 

An attempt to update the law with the Malicious Communications (Social Media) Bill in 2016 was likely going to be a step forward, but because of Theresa May’s decision to call a pointless General Election in May 2017, that failed due to it having not even yet reached the House of Lords prior to the 3rd May. Now, with the ‘Wheat Field Wanderer’ in a position of being nothing but “weak and wobbly” in terms of her political influence, such laws will likely be forgotten. That is entirely wrong and we now call upon politicians of all parties to campaign to right the wrong that allows bullies and trolls to continue to prosper.

 

Anti-Social Media – The law needs to be updated with regard to what is acceptable on social media; businesses such as Facebook and Twitter need to equally be held to account
A pixelated version of the image David Beckham posted to Instagram of his daughter, Harper, and other children; the Mirror opted (rightly) to obscure the faces of the other children and we do the same here; shown: Princess Eugenie and Harper Beckham

Comments

9 comments on “Anti-Social Media”

  1. Good point on Beckham. He is known to be very protective of his own privacy yet he posted a picture of someone else’s child. This is the problem. People just don’t think and it is so easy to upload something. Once its gone to 900,000 people, its viral and even if he took it down now, it would be too late. He should have been more careful in the first place and though he’s done nothing criminal (as you point out) he certainly owes the other children’s parents an apology.

  2. The Katie Hopkins judgement of £130000 is disproportionate compared to the fact St Davids got just 12 weeks (will serve 6) for offering bounties on the heads of Gina Miller and Arnold Sube. Hopkins’ words might have been upsetting to Monroe (a known self-publicist) but what occurred with her is nowhere near the league of danger that was placed on Miller and Sube.

  3. Shut TFU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am really getting sick of Steeple Times now!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The media need to be free and social media needs to be free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This suggestion of yours is George Orwellian and you are completely out of touch with most of us!!!!!!!!!! The one who tweeted about the airport is right ——– people were totally overreacting!!!!!!!!!!! I am really, really getting sick of this publication banging on and you should get bloody real and let people have all their words published here!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop moderating my comments!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t want you watching me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I again remind you of what you have done to a family. You have torn Rhodri from the arms of his wife and child and put into a pit of vipers. He did nothing wrong and the law is an ass for suggesting otherwise. Gina Miller, Arnold Sube and Matthew Steeples should be ashamed of themselves.

    1. He did it to himself with his arrogant and racist views, he has only himself to blame. He obviously thinks he’s above the law and it doesn’t apply to him. Well now he has time to think about his actions and sober up.
      What would you be saying now if he had made those threats against you.
      You just don’t get it.

  5. Stacey plainly is a woman without any realisation of what is right and what is wrong. What about Gina Miller’s children? What about Arnold Sube’s children?

  6. You are right. A law designed for 2003 when Facebook didn’t even exist should not be the law that it is governed by.

  7. People need to be held accountable for what they post whoever they are! Matthew Steeples did the right thing! Any sort of abuse must be reported and justice must be served!

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