Newspapers Who Relied On Bebo Party Report Sued For Defamation
from the fact-checking?-who-does-that-any-more? dept
Back in May there were a series of stories that made the rounds concerning a British girl who had her 16th birthday party at her parents pricey estate in Spain. The stories, based on the girl’s own account on the social network Bebo claimed that she had posted an invite to various social networks, and tons of people showed up and it turned into a violent drunken mess. In an age of “oh no, look at what those crazy kids are doing on social networks!” reporting, the press had a field day talking about it.
There was just one problem: much of the story was apparently made up by the girl.
Now the mother of the girl is suing six newspapers for writing the story (found via Slashdot). There are a lot of questions raised by this. The woman’s daughter spread the story herself — so if the mother has a complaint, you would think it’s with the daughter. But, at the same time, what kind of newspaper reports on something like that based on a single first-person account of the 16-year-old hosting the party, rather than getting any kind of fact check confirmation?
Still, it seems like some of the questions being drawn from this are going in the wrong direction. The article reports:
The case is expected to have far-reaching consequences for third parties who use or publish information from social networking sites. Lawyers say it could place a duty on all second-hand users to establish the truth of everything they want to republish from such sites. Mrs Hudson not only denies the allegations but accuses the newspapers of misusing information posted by her daughter on the Bebo site, saying there was no legitimate public interest in publishing material from the site. Mrs Hudson says that, because the information was inaccurate, the papers cannot rely on the defence of fair comment.
Her solicitor, David Price, said the case raised important issues of libel, privacy and copyright in relation to the unauthorised use of material taken from social networking sites.
That threatens to be quite chilling. If you can’t republish direct quotes from someone who was at an event, it would seem to be quite stifling. I recognize this is in the UK, which has much stricter libel laws, but it still sounds like it might be going too far. As for the “copyright” claim, that’s the most questionable of all. Claiming that the fact that her daughter’s own account was incorrect means that “fair comment” is no longer allowed is ridiculous. If you’re quoting someone for news purposes, the copyright issue shouldn’t depend on whether or not the person you’re quoting is lying.