David Cameron & The Pig: Revenge Porn & The Right To Be Forgotten

from the a-whole-hog-of-a-mess dept

We've written a lot about two efforts to suppress certain kinds of content online through legal regimes: revenge porn and the right to be forgotten. In both cases (especially revenge porn), it's quite reasonable to be sympathetic to the person whose embarrassing information is just out there for anyone to see. But we're always concerned at the possibility that these new regulations or legal regimes could be misused to simply suppress information that people don't like, without any legitimate basis. We've seen a number of cases recently where we wonder about how newsworthy items could meet the definitions required to be silenced under both of these legal regimes. Whether or not anyone is actually seeking to suppress that information now, it still should lead to some concerns about cases where it could happen.

Enter UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his apparent, rumored-by-a-single source, naked late night rendezvous with the head of a dead pig.

As you may have heard, last week some details from a new book by Michael Ashcroft and Isabel Oakeshott about Cameron came out -- and the details that got everyone talking involved the possibility of this rather, um, odd encounter with a pig. It was described this way:
The biography also makes claims about the prime minister’s time at university, saying an MP had seen photographic evidence that Cameron put a “private part of his anatomy” into a dead pig’s head as part of a dining club initiation ritual.
This has resulted in all sorts of chatter, speculation, laughter and an outright denial from Cameron. Plenty of people made the slightly eerie connection to the (excellent) television series Black Mirror, whose very first (and probably most well-known) episode involves the UK Prime Minister being forced to fuck a pig on live TV. Of course, that was to save a member of the royal family who had been kidnapped, rather than some sort of weird initiation ceremony.

While David Cameron has claimed he's "too busy" to sue Lord Ashcroft over the book, there are also reports that he was quite busy prior to the book's release trying to "sabotage the book" and somehow block it.

Which leads to the question of whether or not he'd even have the ability to block such content. As we've discussed in the past, the UK has this thing known as a super injunction that has regularly been used to block any reporting on issues that might embarrass the rich and famous. Given just how frequently it's been used, it's almost surprising that it wasn't used in this case.

However, what about these more recent concepts of anti-revenge porn laws and the right to be forgotten? On the revenge porn angle, there is alleged to be a photograph of the "pig" ritual. In Lord Aschcroft's book, it's described this way. After noting that "a distinguished Oxford contemporary" told them of this event a few times, despite the two co-authors assuming it was a joke, eventually the guy gave more details, including information about who supposedly had the photographic evidence:
Some months later, he repeated it a third time, providing a little more detail. The pig’s head, he claimed, had been resting on the lap of a Piers Gaveston society member while Cameron performed the act.

The MP also gave us the dimensions of the alleged photograph, and provided the name of the individual who he claims has it in his keeping.

The owner, however, has failed to respond to our approaches. Perhaps it is a case of mistaken identity. Yet it is an elaborate story for an otherwise credible figure to invent.
For what it's worth, it is not difficult to find sites of questionable credibility claiming to possibly have the photograph in question. Under the legal definition in some "revenge porn" laws, it's quite possible that anyone passing around this photo online could be breaking such a law. As we noted with pictures of Lenny Kravitz's wardrobe malfunction, some of it is up for debate, but there's a reasonable case to be made that such a photo could be considered "revenge porn."

Obviously, this is happening in the UK, rather than the US, but just take a look at California's revenge porn law:
Any person who intentionally distributes the image of the intimate body part or parts of another identifiable person, or an image of the person depicted engaged in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or an image of masturbation by the person depicted or in which the person depicted participates, under circumstances in which the persons agree or understand that the image shall remain private, the person distributing the image knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress.
You could see how the person who has the original photograph might very well be guilty of that. And while some may (reasonably) argue that revealing or passing around such a photo is distasteful, should it really be against the law? It certainly appears to be a newsworthy topic according to many -- so should it be illegal?

This is, again, why we're so concerned about revenge porn laws. We readily admit that revenge porn (even if it involves the Prime Minister of the UK and a pig) is distasteful to engage in, but it still seems weird that passing on relevant evidence of something so newsworthy might, itself, be considered a crime.

And then there's the "right to be forgotten." In the original ruling at the EU's Court of Justice, it focused on saying that search engines should be forced to delete links to information that is considered "inadequate, irrelevant or excessive in relation to the purposes of the processing." One could, perhaps, make the argument that details of the Prime Minister of the UK engaged in a sexual act/hazing ritual with the severed head of a pig might possibly meet all those requirements. The ruling does include an exception for "the role played by the data subject in public life" in which case it might be decided "that the interference with his fundamental rights is justified by the preponderant interest of the general public in having, on account of inclusion in the list of results, access to the information in question." So, perhaps one would argue that, given Cameron's public role, the interest in the public knowing about his pig romanticizing university hazing activities would eliminate the RTBF in this case. Or at least one would hope so.

But the problem in both these cases is that it's not out of the question that courts might find one or either of the above attacks on free speech to apply here. And you can reasonably argue that what David Cameron did or did not do with a pig back at Oxford as a student isn't really all that important, and the somewhat giddy fascination by many in the press and the public is a depressing sign of our discourse these days -- but it still worries me when we start passing laws that suggest that such things might not even be allowed to be discussed publicly at all. Cameron seems to have, wisely, decided that his best course of action is to just deny the story and hope it blows over (as it likely will). However, we've spent years chronicling people who show no such restraint when embarrassing information comes out about themselves -- and it's important to watch carefully how these new legal regimes might be abused to silence legitimate reporting and free expression.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: david cameron, eu, free speech, pig, revenge porn, right to be forgotten, uk


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2015 @ 10:49am

    I just love it that not just now, when a decade ago when his cocaine scandal happened, he and his friends were all saying "He has the right to a private past life!"

    And now the same guy wants to water down human rights in UK and all over the world, and wants to enable even more GCHQ surveillance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 2 Oct 2015 @ 10:51am

    If PETA can defend the selfie-taking monkey in court, then surely it can argue for the pig's right to be forgotten.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2015 @ 10:53am

    You could argue though that the photo isn't revenge porn since it isn't being distributed for sexual gratificiation, but to demonstrate the corruption and hypocrisy (MP performing necrophilic bestiality, both of which crimes under UK law) of the establishment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 2 Oct 2015 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      The point of revenge porn isn't sexual gratification. It's to cause embarrassment and shame, to isolate someone from those normally around them, and by sending it to their coworkers, to destroy their careers.

      All of which would be the case here. Nor just for the pig, but for Cameron.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        techflaws (profile), 2 Oct 2015 @ 11:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Which in this case is understandable. OTOH I don't see why someone getting naughty with their (former) partner should be embarrassing to anyone who did NOT produce it for public consumption and in good faith belief in the integrity of said partner.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 2 Oct 2015 @ 11:16am

    Think of the BACON people!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2015 @ 11:18am

    We have been here before!

    But we're always concerned at the possibility that these new regulations or legal regimes could be misused to simply suppress information that people don't like, without any legitimate basis.

    We need to get off this merry-go-fucking-round of COULD.

    No If, Ans, or Buts!!! It WILL BE ABUSED!!! The question is how much will it be abused and WHO gets a pass to abuse it? How many times do we have to live through this before we figure it out? Oh that's right, keep forgetting... stupid humans have been around AND in force since the beginning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 2 Oct 2015 @ 11:23am

    inadequate, irrelevant or excessive

    So can't we just erase David Cameron?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 2 Oct 2015 @ 11:53am

    This whole mess is a bunch of hogwash...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 2 Oct 2015 @ 1:04pm

    Maybe if the "rich and famous" stopped doing embarrassing things...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2015 @ 2:44pm

    considering how he and his ilk have slagged off and condemned things that the members of other political parties have supposedly said and or done, surely he must have known that sooner or later, making these sort of crap insinuations would come back and bite him and his gang members squarely where it hurts the most? the Tory party have, for example, always condemned those who were suspected at least to be pedophiles. when all that came out about the members of previous Tory governments and how things had been stifled intentionally because of the 'big names' and 'high positions' if he didn't, he should of curled up in a ball in the corner, hoping the good Lord could whisk him away from harm! now another scandal hits and who knows where it will end!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2015 @ 2:57pm

    Real-life 'Yes, Prime Minister'*. Where are my DVDs?


    *Yes, Minister/Prime Minister > The Thick of It > fucking a pig (dead or alive) > Veep. And no, it's not a generational thing AND i love Armando Ianucci's other output.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2015 @ 9:30am

    Hi, google internet, its UK Prime Minister David Cameron here, ive recieved many letters, calls, those tweet thingies on this subject, and for once ive decided to listen, i know right........anyway, i UK Prime Minister David Cameron, would formally like to request i be forgotten from history.........now, i assume i would never have been UK Prime Minister David Cameron right?!.....soooooooo, anyone have any work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 4 Oct 2015 @ 12:00pm

    Zzzz ...

    I'd been wondering what all those "Cameron + pig" stories I've been avoiding were all about. Now that I know, I'm not the least surprised. When the Brits are good, they're great. When they're bad, they're the worst; far, far worse than any others are capable of. The British "upperclass" is even worse than the British "lowerclass" for depths of depravity to which they'll dig. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack The Ripper?

    Cameron's upholding long standing tradition well, making Popes appear to be saints in comparison.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:21am

    Brilliant argument - we shan't do anything about revenge porn becuase - David Cameron. Glad you're "sympathetic" to the victims. Perhaps you can start priorising their right not to be abused over your right to find anything you want online?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 2:30pm

      Re:

      Brilliant argument - we shan't do anything about revenge porn because - David Cameron.

      Well, you could consider not being dicks to your former partners, as in amicable breakup and mutual respect? I know, it's out of fashion but it has worked in the past.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:42am

    Poor pig. It didn't deserve such destiny.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

Introducing the new Techdirt Insider Chat, now hosted on Discord. If you are an Insider with a membership that includes the chat feature and have not yet been invited to join us on Discord, please reach out here.

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.