Lord McAlpine, Wronged By BBC, Demands 10,000 People On Twitter Pay Up
from the mcalpine-effect dept
Folks in the UK have spent much of this month following the story of Lord McAlpine (Robert Alistair McAlpine) the former politician who worked for Margaret Thatcher. Earlier this month, the BBC reported on its Newsnight program that an unnamed former “senior” politician in the UK government was implicated in a child abuse scandal. People on Twitter quickly assumed from the description that it was McAlpine, and the story spread quickly. A few days later, the Guardian broke the story that it was a case of mistaken identity. That scandal has thrown the BBC into chaos over its reporting.
But, more interesting to us, is the fact that Lord McAlpine (not a Twitter user) has announced his intention to go after 10,000 Twitter users for either claiming he was the person in question or for retweeting someone else saying that. Some have already apologized for their tweets, but even among those who have, they claim that McAlpine’s lawyers are going to ridiculous lengths, with one person, Sally Bercow, who has apologized, also claiming that McAlpine’s lawyers are “ambulance chasers” and “big bullies.”
But the decision to force 10,000 people to pay up seems crazy:
Lawyers acting for Lord McAlpine have also drawn up a “very long list” of targets they intend to pursue for defamation, including the authors of 1,000 original tweets and a further 9,000 individuals who retweeted those messages.
Apparently if you’re “small time” you won’t have to pay as much:
Lord McAlpine’s solicitor, Andrew Reed, said last night that those with under 500 followers will be asked to make a donation to charity as part of a settlement, with an “administration fee” for sorting it out. He added that higher profile figures, such as Ms Bercow, are “a separate matter”.
Here’s the insane part: McAlpine claims that he’s doing this to “restore my reputation.” Demanding 10,000 people on Twitter pay up isn’t going to “restore” your reputation. It’s going to tarnish it. Yes, it’s pretty clear that McAlpine was wronged by the initial reports that suggested he was involved in the scandal. And the BBC is paying up handsomely for their mistake (apparently a six figure settlement has already been negotiated). But the news that the BBC’s report was false spread like wildfire. Everyone knows the report was false. Going after people on Twitter for talking about it doesn’t do anything more to restore his reputation, it just makes him look like a giant bully — and, in the process, calls much more attention to him and his tactics here.