Forget The Streisand Effect, I Think We've Seen The Dawning Of The Giggs Effect

from the ain't-so-super-now dept

Well, well. A supposedly anonymous UK professional footballer has now sued Twitter, along with some Twitter users for supposedly breaking the “superinjunction” he bought in the UK. As you’re probably aware by now, there’s been a lot of attention paid to these superinjunctions in the UK, which the rich and famous are able to pay large sums of money to courts to get those courts to issue a superinjunction that bars anyone from reporting on certain issues — quite frequently (but not always) concerning marital infidelity. Of course, on our modern internet, where everyone is potentially “the press” this seems pretty silly. While there have been attempts to expand these superinjunctions to Twitter and Facebook, that seems like an impossible task.

Rather than recognize this simple fact, the footballer in question is suing Twitter. This seems like a total non-starter for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, last year, Congress passed the SPEECH Act, which protects US businesses against anti-free speech rulings in other countries, including in situations of third party liability where the efforts would be protected under Section 230 (the legislative history on this was quite clear). What this means is that Twitter may be the first big test for the SPEECH Act.

Going after individual users is even more stupid. First of all, it would require Twitter giving up identifying info on those who don’t provide it otherwise, and Twitter has been known to fight pretty hard against having to do that. I would imagine that its small, but smart, legal team might enjoy this kind of fight.

But, the bigger point, as mentioned in the PaidContent article linked above is:

Perhaps most of all, the action is like pouring petrol on a fire. In response to the filing, thousands more tweets are now pouring out naming the supposed individual all over again.

It’s really not that difficult to find reports of who supposedly is the person involved. Various foreign publications, who are not under UK jurisdiction, have pointed out that the Twitter consensus is that the guy who took out the injunction is Ryan Giggs. I have no clue if that’s who it actually is, but I will say that he’s clearly the consensus pick of users on Twitter.

Of course, in suing Twitter, this “anonymous” football player appears to be more or less confirming the consensus. As Deadspin so aptly put it:

Totally Anonymous Soccer Player Sues Twitter For Saying Ryan Giggs Had An Affair

Which sorta highlights how incredibly pointless this lawsuit is. If Giggs is not the guy who took out the superinjunction, then it makes no sense to sue people who claim it is Giggs. Thus, in suing, he appears to confirm what he’s suing to keep quiet. Brilliant.

On top of that, even the UK press, who is required to not mention the guy’s name is having fun with this. In a post about the lawsuit, without naming the guy, Dan Sabbagh at The Guardian posted a lovely graph of how many times the guy’s name was mentioned in the afternoon after the lawsuit was filed:

If the idea was to suppress his name from being mentioned, he seems to have failed badly.

In fact, the UK press is pretty clearly getting fed up with this as well. The Scotland Herald, which notes that it’s not subject to the injunction which only applies to England, and not Scotland, has put out the following edition with a picture of Giggs on the cover, with just a narrow black bar across his eyes:

In an article about it, The Herald notes:

Today we identify the footballer whose name has been linked to a court superinjunction by thousands of postings on Twitter. Why? Because we believe it is unsustainable that the law can be used to prevent newspapers from publishing information that readers can access on the internet at the click of a mouse?

Because we believe it unfair that the law can not only be used to prevent the publication of information which may be in the public interest but also to prevent any mention of such a court order.

I’m beginning to think we should rename the Streisand Effect to the Giggs Effect. I mean, this has taken it to a new level…

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Comments on “Forget The Streisand Effect, I Think We've Seen The Dawning Of The Giggs Effect”

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Lisa Westveld (profile) says:


Well, the Giggs Effect sounds much better than the Streisand Effect. Males me Giggle… 🙂 It definitely brings censorship stupidity to new heights.
Well, maybe keep calling it Streisand Effect when it happens in the USA, and Giggs Effect when it happens in Europe. All we need now is names for the other parts of the world…

charliebrown says:

Australian Version

I remember something a few months ago about a football player in Melbourne and “A St. Kilda Schoolgirl” who has since been named as Kim Duthie but they kept her anonymous in the press for as long as they could. So for the Australian version you could call it “The Duthie Effect” or maybe “The Schoolgirl Effect” (with apologies to school girls everywhere)

Mr. Pond. says:

Re: Response to: Planespotter on May 23rd, 2011 @ 8:23am

Really? Seeing as we’re being unthinkingly bigoted and stereotyping, I’d like to bet Planespotter is an arrogant, small minded, English scum. Not nice, is it?

On topic, the judges comments that there ought to be a way to prevent information like this from being published on social networking sites such as Twitter perfectly illustrates how out of touch the judiciary really are about such things. The entire concept of super injunctions is not only a national embarrassment but also ample evidence that this piece of law really ought to be repealed as soon as possible.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

This is still the Streisand Effect. Let's reserve Giggs Effect for the next level

This guy is still at the Streisand Effect level in my book because he is still just causing more publicity by fighting for anonymity. Granted, he has taken it to an extreme. But it is still the same basic process.

Remember that with the original Streisand Effect Babbs was only fighting against a rather limited and clumsy Internet. The only tools against her were web sites, FTP, and email. The Internet was not nearly as universal as it is now. There was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. I don’t think we had even invented the word “blogging.” Heck, there were not even many news sites in those days to cover the story and traditional news media mostly made it a point to avoid the Internet. People were not connected 24/7 with smartphones. As the Internet has grown and matured the speed and intensity of the Streisand Effect has increased, but it is still the same basic principle.

I think we should reserve the Giggs Effect for what is truly the next level. I think the Giggs Effect would be if in fighting you actually manage to reverse the law you were trying to abuse use for protection. Giggs might have actually managed to do that. The next few days may tell us if we have a new effect.

Andy (profile) says:

Well, this IS a soccer player we’re dealing with, so not too surprising if he is not particularly smart in pursuing this.

An interesting development is that a second soccer player has also been granted one of these ridiculous super injunctions following hot on the heels of this case.

Apparently the judge granted that injunction because the player concerned claimed publication of his name would have a significant impact on his wife and family. Hmmm, or perhaps it was his alleged adultery that had the impact rather than the reporting of that affair.

That Anonymous Coward says:

I would love to see the wife of one of these cheaters take the court to task for assisting in the coverup of the affairs.
Helping to hide a partner cheating leaves her open to all sorts of STDs that could end up being a death sentence.

Is “FAME” really more important than another persons life?

Cathy (user link) says:

Technical correction?

I’m not sure it’s correct to say that he’s sued Twitter. I think it may be a request for an order compelling Twitter to disclose the identity of people who had tweeted his name. Still awful for the speech-chilling reasons you mentioned, but not quite the same thing as suing Twitter directly and probably requires a separate analysis for whether the SPEECH Act would be helpful here.

Also I have been bashed by English lawyers all morning insisting it was not a “superinjunction,” partly because technically there is no such thing and partly (I need to check on this) because it may not have included the gag order preventing discussion of the injunction itself. On the other hand, like a “superinjunction,” this one does appear to apply to third parties.

Duke (profile) says:

A few points

A few points from me (although I have to be careful what I say as I’m bound by the Court order).

This isn’t a super-injunction. We can tell this as there’s a public judgment in the case.

Secondly, the reason for the injunction is to prevent disclosure of information before there is a trial; this is partly to reduce damage done by an disclose if it is found to be unlawful (i.e. safer to not tell and then find out you can, than tell and then be sued for damages), and partly to protect all parties’ right to a fair trial.

Thirdly, these things may not be cheap (costing ?10k-60k), but they’re considerably cheaper than an actual privacy trial (in the Mosley case, News Group Newspapers ended up paying ?420k in costs). Yes, the law is expensive, but injunctions are comparatively cheap.

Fourthly, the lawsuit against Twitter is (likely) hoping to identify a particular user who started all this fuss a couple of weeks ago; there is good reason to believe that they were directly linked to one of the big newspapers. This isn’t about going after random people on the Internet, this is making sure that newspapers aren’t circumventing court orders for their own gain.

The really sad thing is that the press have managed to twist this case so it is “a good thing” for people to invade someone’s privacy. This case isn’t in the news because an injunction was granted (in circumstances the judge described as “blackmail”), but because our newspapers have found it to be a great opportunity to both attack the UK’s law on privacy (which gets in their way of splashing the intimate details of people’s lives across their front pages), and attack the Internet and social media (both encapsulated in a Daily Mail headline “vile online lies only spread because judges are suppressing the truth”, which referred to “irresponsible” “Twitter rogues”).

Also, I imagine some newspapers are keen to distract people from the fact that they are in serious trouble for contempt of court over previous reporting, or for illegally hacking into the phones of celebrities, politicians and the relatives of murder victims.

Anonymous Coward says:

It was the totally wrongheaded idea to sue Twitter that caused all this. This was dying down. Footballer has affair is not big news. More people were interested in the actor.

However, once Twitter appeared to be under threat, just like the Twitter Joke Trial previously, thousands of people rightly or wrongly saw it as their duty to show solidarity and tweet the censored information.

Anonymous Coward says:

It was the totally wrongheaded idea to sue Twitter that caused all this. This was dying down. Footballer has affair is not big news. More people were interested in the actor.

However, once Twitter appeared to be under threat, just like the Twitter Joke Trial previously, thousands of people rightly or wrongly saw it as their duty to show solidarity and tweet the censored information.

Anonymous Coward says:

However, here is the worry, thanks to the US setting the precedent.
Any employee or CEO, owner etc of Twitter gets on a plane. That plane flies through UK airspace. A UK Air marchall arrests that Twitter Employee for violation of the court order. The plane is forced to land, and that person is now sitting in prison waiting for his trial for violating a UK court order.
The US will whine and complain. Diplomates will be sent to bargain for his freedom. US polititions will stand up and shout that the UK has no business arresting OUR citizens for activities HERE.

But wait, then everyone but the Brits forget that WE just arrested a number of UK citizens who happened to own online casinos. And happened to get on a plane that flew over US air space. And were arrested for…
Well, you get the cycle.

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