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Leveson's broadside at Twitter and Google as he calls for end of web 'mob rule'

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  • Radio prank on Duchess of Cambridge proves need for new privacy laws, Lord Leveson said during £620-per-ticket Sydney lecture
  • He was speaking at an exclusive event where he said 'mob rule' online must end
  • 'There is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, via Google,’ judge added
  • He said Lord McAlpine case proved internet is 'megaphone for gossip'
  • Leveson report criticised for only having one page on the internet

By Martin Robinson

PUBLISHED: 08:09 EST, 7 December 2012 | UPDATED: 08:51 EST, 7 December 2012

Lord Justice Leveson has today called for new laws to 'civilise' 'mob rule' on the internet during a £620-a-ticket Australian lecture on privacy in the media.

Warning of 'trial by Twitter' the judge said the internet allows people to make damaging personal accusations and give victims 'unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, via Google’.

A prank call by Australian radio presenters who got a condition report from the Duchess of Cambridge's nurse by pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles proved a need for new privacy laws, he added.

Speaker: During a £620-per-ticket lecture in Sydney last night Lord Jusdtce Leveson said 'mob rule' online needed to be dealt with

Speaker: During a £620-per-ticket lecture in Sydney last night Lord Justice Leveson said 'mob rule' online needed to be dealt with

Speech: Lord Levson said that the internet had become a 'megaphone for gossip' that would need new laws to control it

Speech: Lord Leveson said that the internet had become a 'megaphone for gossip' that would need new laws to control it

These laws are necessary on the internet to safeguard privacy against 'an element of mob rule' online, he said.

Twitter and Google are American companies and will never agree to regulate their content, and would likely use the U.S. first amendment of its constitution - which blocks any laws that curb freedom of speech.

Speaking a lecture on his all-expenses trip Down Under he also cited the case of Lord McAlpine, who was wrongly branded a paedophile after a botched Newsnight report, and said the web had become a 'global megaphone for gossip' without 'any general standards of behaviour'.

But Westminster would find ways to curb the 'wilder excesses' found on social media and blogs, he added.

'There is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, via Google,’ the judge told the audience of 100.

‘Where the internet is used to ridicule the behaviour of individuals going about their everyday business, to name and shame people by broadcasting their behaviour on, for instance, YouTube, or by describing that behaviour on blogs, there is a danger of real harm being done – and in some cases harm which is both permanent and disproportionate.

'It is likely that new [legal norms] and new laws will need to be developed.'

'Unmissable': Described in publicity as the 'Chair of the UK Leveson Inquiry', Lord Justice Leveson will be among a host of experts to speak at the day-long symposium, billed as 'one of the key privacy events of the year'

'Unmissable': Lord Justice Leveson was among a host of experts to speak at the day-long symposium, billed as 'one of the key privacy events of the year'

He blamed the 'historic failure' of successive British governments for failing to curb media intrusion and added individuals who tweet or use social media platforms are not beyond reach of the criminal law.

The High Court judge spoke at Sydney's University of Technology entitled 'Privacy in the 21st century'.

His comments could be a reaction to criticism fired at him because hisplans to regulate the press almost entirely ignored how millions of people get their news online.

The inquiry concluded it was almost impossible to regulate the Internet - but did not make any suggestions for how it could fit with his newspaper rules.

Example: A hoax phone call to Kate's bedside (pictured leaving hospital) was an example of the need for new privacy laws, Lord Leveson said

Example: A hoax phone call to Kate's bedside (pictured leaving hospital) was an example of the need for new privacy laws, Lord Leveson said

In a report of almost 2,000 pages, compiled over course of more than a year, he devoted just one page to the internet and made no recommendations about how online publications, Twitter and blogs, would fit into a new media regulatory landscape.

Pressure: Lord Leveson has been criticised for the lack of detail on his 2,000 page report on how to deal with the internet

Pressure: Lord Leveson has been criticised for the lack of detail on his 2,000 page report on how to deal with the internet

But he has now added flesh to the bones.

'In so far as the internet is concerned, there has been, and for many, there remains a perception that actions do not have legal consequences,' he said.

'Just as it took time for the wilder excesses of the early penny press to be civilised, it will take time to civilise the internet,' he said.

'The internet does not trade in gossip. It simply publishes it online, conveys it on Facebook, uploads it onto Youtube, tweets and re-tweets it.'

John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the Commons culture committee, said when the report was published last week: ‘It is curious to bring in very strong controls to prevent newspapers breaking the code when it's so easy for online providers to do so.

His comments came eight days after the official publication, on November 29, of the first part of his long-awaited report from his epic probe into press standards and amid the firestorm that has followed its publication.

The inquiry heard months of evidence - some explosive - from key figures including celebrities, lawyers, politicians and journalists

Lord Leveson will now jet to Melbourne to deliver a second oration on 'News Gathering in a Time of Change'. Tickets for this event, which are free so long as audience members book in advance, have already sold out.

Anticipation: Lord Justice Leveson is expected to call for a new Press regulator backed by law when he delivers his long awaited report next Thursday

Anticipation: Lord Justice Leveson delivered his long awaited report on media standards last Thursday

Margaret Simons, director of Melbourne University's Centre for Advanced Journalism, which is hosting the December 12 event, said: 'Sir Brian's lecture will raise issues that must be at the heart of any discussion about the way journalists go about their work: how do we protect the vital role that journalists have in our liberal democracies and, at the same time, hold them to account for the ways in which they do their work?'

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said before he left for Australia:  'Lord Justice Leveson has received invitations to speak from two universities in Australia in December.

'He has accepted those invitations, subject to him having completed and published his Report by then and on the understanding that he is not going to speak about the content of, or the recommendations in, his report.  His travel costs will be met by the universities.'

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