Why Is Twitter Sending Legal Letters Warning People About Tweeting About The Gagged Topic Of A 'Celebrity Threesome'

from the don't-let-the-sun-on-sunday-reveal-me... dept

For years we've written about the troubling practice in the UK of so-called super injunctions, which bar the press from discussing certain topics. It seems that these super injunctions are most frequently used to stop any discussion in the media of embarrassing situations involving the rich and famous. Of course, social media -- and Twitter in particular -- have become a real challenge to making those super injunctions have any meaning at all.

Apparently, one such super injunction was recently granted to a "celebrity couple" who added a third person to add a "trois" to the "menage." The threesome doesn't want their extracurricular activities to be discussed publicly, and the courts have obliged, with the UK Supreme Court upholding the super injunction, while the UK's the Sun on Sunday tabloid sought to break the media gag order. I'm not exactly a fan of media reporting on the personal activities of what celebrities do in their bedrooms, but it still seems troubling to have courts completely bar the media from discussing the situation at all (they can discuss that the super injunction exists, but not much beyond that).

But, again, there's social media. So it seemed doubly odd that people who had been tweeting about the "celebrity threesome" started receiving emails from the Twitter legal department alerting them that they may wish to be cautious about tweeting such things.
An email from Twitter’s legal team, seen by the Guardian, does not explicitly ask users to delete the tweets but hints that there could be consequences for not doing so.

The email reads: “The complainant requests that the following tweet, allegedly in violation of local law in the UK, be removed immediately from your account. Please confirm whether you will voluntarily comply with the request.”

It also includes a reminder that Twitter’s rules require that users “comply with all local laws regarding their online conduct and acceptable content”.
From that, it actually appears that lawyers for at least someone involved in the threesome reached out to Twitter to complain about specific tweets and argued that the super injunction applied there as well. Of course, the super injunction applies to media, which raises the question of whether or not random Twitter users qualify as "media." At the very least, the Attorney General for England and Wales is similarly warning that even those tweeting the names may be prosecuted:
The attorney-general has warned Twitter and Facebook users may face prosecution if they name the celebrity at the centre of a privacy injuction banning the reporting of his alleged extramarital activities.

Jeremy Wright QC said in a statement that anyone who breached the order, not just newspapers, could have contempt of court proceedings brought against them.
So, perhaps the email from Twitter was just trying to protect its UK userbase from facing such legal actions.

Still, it appears the lawyers trying to silence these details are going after anything online they dislike. Last month they claimed that a random blogger violated the super injunction as well, and have also sought to use Europe's "right to be forgotten" rules to remove search references as well.

Of course, all this activity seems to only be fueling even more interest on social media in leading people to figure out who the suspected celebrities are. Apparently tabloid publications outside of the UK have freely published the details of the story, so it's not like anyone in the UK has to look very hard to find the details, and that was one of the arguments used against allowing the super injunction to continue -- but apparently the Supreme Court was not convinced. Either way, even if Twitter argues it's doing this to protect its users from possible charges (as ridiculous as those might be), there does seem to be something quite troubling when a company like Twitter is basically telling people to "watch what they say" for fear of potential legal consequences.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 10:48am

    england gives hitler a boner.

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

  • identicon
    kasper11, 20 May 2016 @ 10:56am

    Procedural Question

    I have a question as to how this works...there is a prohibition on reporting about this celebrity couple's sex life. But none of the reports give the name of the celebrity couple, of course.

    So how are people expected to know who it is that they aren't allowed to talk about?

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 20 May 2016 @ 11:00am

      Re: Procedural Question

      Exactly.

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

    • icon
      NoahVail (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:05am

      i thought it was odd that thE streisand effect wasn't in pLay here, especially since The gag can ONly be applied to JOurnalists in tHe uk Newspapers.

      then i read who the celebs where and i understood why everyone outside the uk is freaked out about mentioning names.

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

    • identicon
      Silent Bob, 20 May 2016 @ 11:10am

      Re: Procedural Question

      >> So how are people expected to know who it is that they aren't allowed to talk about?

      I guess you'll have to live your life like a candle in the wind.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:30am

      Re: Procedural Question

      Because the injunction doesn't extend outside of England. The couples have been named in magazines and papers in the U.S., Canada, etc.

      The entire injunction concept fucking arbitrary because of this.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re: Procedural Question

        There's a building legal battle over the issue of the web being world wide in regard to injunctions and supposed rights to be forgotten. France already thinks it can tell Google to remove international search results.

        This might be the only time where corporate sovereignty could work in the favor of the first amendment. Google and Twitter should be able to tell national governments to go fuck their censorship.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Procedural Question

          I really hate the concept of "right to be forgotten," 'cause all it really is is the "right to pretend something never happened."

          I mean, if someone was falsely accused of molesting a child or rape then I can support the supression of information that would cause "no smoke without fire."

          But if you do something like have an affair, or kill a hooker or whatever then why should that information be supressed?

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

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 4:04pm

            Society disrupted by technology.

            People's lives can be ruined by a rumor, but before the internet, it didn't happen very often, so we tolerated it.

            Also people could outrun the rumor.

            Nowadays, rumors and factchecks fly around the world like fire through flashpaper. Europe's RTBF is an attempt to address the issue via technology.

            But it's not a tech problem. It's a social problem. It was a social problem before when it was small. Now it's huge.

            We as a society will have to learn that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has pasts. Everyone has teenage nudes on the web somewhere.

            That is the problem.

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

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 21 May 2016 @ 3:59pm

              Re: Society disrupted by technology.

              "We as a society will have to learn that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has pasts. Everyone has teenage nudes on the web somewhere."

              From what I can see amongst my kids and their friends, folks from their mid 20s and younger totally get this already. We'll have a period where the old farts like me will stand in their way, but I think it will be a pretty brief period.

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

            • icon
              Tanner Andrews (profile), 22 May 2016 @ 6:05pm

              Re: Society disrupted by technology.


              We as a society will have to learn that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has pasts. Everyone has teenage nudes on the web somewhere.

              Not quite. Some people are so old that their teen years had passed long before car phones had cameras, and taking actual photos on actual film was a much bigger deal.

              It did not tend to happen as often as kids taking improper pictures of themselves happens today because the barrier to entry today is so much lower. Of course this does not stop state's attorneys from treating it as being every bit as much a problem as it would have been when they were born.

              The results are sometimes silly: a kid who takes a picture of himself is now a felon, and also the victim, and, yes, the law does appear to be an ass.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 2:48am

              Re: Society disrupted by technology.

              "Everyone has teenage nudes on the web somewhere." - a new version of the "skeleton in the cupboard"? Perhaps.

              But the point is valid.
              What is more - RTBF works in Europe; there is no chance it would work in US, and you can compare the two search versions. And no, blocking TOR and VPNs, and even VSPs would not work, as long as phones work, you can just call a friend in US.

              So now - if you consider someones reputation - what looks better:
              - his/her "nude teen photo",
              - his/her attempts to hide it?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 12:06pm

        Re: Re: Procedural Question

        Because the injunction doesn't extend outside of England. The couples have been named in magazines and papers in the U.S., Canada, etc.


        And Scotland! Yes, Scottish newspapers have named the couple. It's absurd. These judges are so out of touch with reality (while insisting that they are not).

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 12:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: Procedural Question

          They're all a bunch of Cnuts.

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

        • icon
          M. Alan Thomas II (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 4:08pm

          Re: Re: Re: Procedural Question

          The common-law privacy idiocy of England and Wales does not extend to the independent Scottish judiciary, thank God.

          This is actually a vehicle for one of the primary attacks on the situation: Pointing out how unfair it is that some citizens of the UK are gagged while others are not. Or, as some of the newspapers have pointed out, that their Scottish edition can run the story but their England edition can't even say which story it is that they can't run.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 12:55pm

      Re: Procedural Question

      So how are people expected to know who it is that they aren't allowed to talk about?
      Start at Wikipedia's "Lists of celebrities", write a simple bot, and let it run till you get a letter?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:15am

    Apparently tabloid publications outside of the UK have freely published the details of the story, so it's not like anyone in the UK has to look very hard to find the details, and that was one of the arguments used against allowing the super injunction to continue -- but apparently the Supreme Court was not convinced.

    Which shows you why countries that push for 'Right' to be Forgotten laws will inevitably push to have them apply globally, and why some have already. If you can't export your censorship worldwide then it's not nearly as effective, whether face saving super-injunction or history re-writing RtbF demand.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:17am

    Meh. Just more Twits behaving like twits...

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:20am

    One person has posted a guide on how to figure out the not-so-subtle hints that the newspapers are dropping about the identity of the celebrities in question:
    http://popbitch.com/home/2016/03/31/up-the-injunction/
    And then the legal threat they received after posting it:
    http://popbitch.com/home/2016/04/14/the-letter-of-the-law/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:28am

    Has been published in (part of) UK

    "Apparently tabloid publications outside of the UK have freely published the details of the story, so it's not like anyone in the UK has to look very hard to find the details"

    The story was published in Scotland and Scotland IS part of the UK although it does have a separate & somewhat different legal system. Still, the point is that the details HAVE been published in part of the UK (print only, not online ie anyone in England who wanted to could drive that day to Scotland and buy the newspaper and freely carry it back, but apparently cannot tell anyone what's in it).

    As for finding out who it is, anyone who cares in England & Wales probably already knows since threads have appeared and disappeared in all the usual places (reddit etc).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:29am

    Oh, FFS. Someone name names!

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

  • icon
    DV Henkel-Wallace (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 11:42am

    Deliberate Streisand troll by Twitter?

    Twitter has made some dubious decisions over the years -- if they decided to deliberately troll the crazy English libel system it would help redeem them!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 11:46am

    Twitter question

    Are the legal notices only going to UK users?

    Or are the Twitter users outside of the UK's jurisdiction getting hit with them?

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

  • icon
    Jnite (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 12:05pm

    First time hearing the term "super injunction", but it sounds like someone read Harry Potter and decided to make the "He who must not be named" thing real, but stupider.

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

  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 12:11pm

    The important question for us all

    Just how much olive oil is in a pool of olive oil?

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 20 May 2016 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    Can we get the ability to flag profiles?

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 20 May 2016 @ 12:55pm

    Ah ha moment. Pfft. So some big glasses wearing piano playing flamboyant entertainer had a threesome. Meh. It is Friday.
    -
    Got a good one for you... Billy Joel and some big glasses wearing piano playing flamboyant entertainer had a concert many years ago and during practice we were preparing the field. Billy mentioned how pretty the girls were in Philadelphia. The big glasses wearing piano playing flamboyant entertainer replied with how good looking the men were. We all just stopped and looked at each other, not really surprised, but kind of surprised he said it through the PA.
    -
    Now if the threesome were 2 females and him... THAT WOULD BE NEWS. 3 males.... not surprising at all.

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

  • icon
    jameshogg (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 12:56pm

    I should point out a correction, Mike. This isn't a superinjunction, it's an injunction. A superinjunction is when you can't even mention the injunction exists without being in contempt of court, which is illiberal because it essentially means secret courts. Though a regular injunction you can say that the injunction exists, which is why papers are allowed to talk about the injunction in England and Wales without actually mentioning the names, and they have done so. See the Daily Mail's "The Law Is An Ass!"

    Here in Scotland I could probably name the names without legal trouble. However if I were to step across the border only a couple hundred miles away I probably could not. And I'm not sure if it counts if a copy of my message would be read in HTML in England despite me posting from Scotland to an American server.

    I do have some sympathy with my opponents here. If some poor woman were photographed nude without her permission and that image went viral across multiple sites globally, she'd be pretty pissed, and she would be a bit disgusted at folk who try to mock her resisting it as creating a "Streisand Effect", as if she were to blame for everybody else's violation of her privacy, which is what "fighting it makes it stronger" can only mean in this case. The thing about the Streisand Effect is that it only gets you so far morally. It can lead to victim blaming.

    And my opponents could also say that it is possible to beat the Streisand Effect by citing the example of the naming of the identities of the killers of James Bulger. This had gone a bit "viral", but then the names had indeed still been removed at every instance in the end.

    Though I fear the above example was only due to luck and the example above that no doubt due to the ignorance of porn viewers when determining if each and every nude image is consensual or not. There was more interest here in the UK about the James Bulger killers' identities than say in the US because it was a UK story at its origin, and not as many were spreading the identities because many others objected to it, which may have made it easier for the police to stop.

    It's a bit scary to think that law has lost its competency here, and that no amount of law can stop memetic information if it's up against millions willing to resist it. If the law does appear to succeed in putting it down, is that because the law's force was strong, or because the people simply chose not to make the content viral? That's a critical question, because if law is all in the mind anyway and authority is an illusion just like free will is, it would make sense that the latter bit of the answer would be right. We all, in the end, decide if laws should be followed or not, and papers called "laws" are inanimate objects that only mean something if we choose to act in favour of them. Law comes from Order, not the other way around.

    That's pretty disturbing, so it is possible that memes can't be stopped by law online - and I really do mean meme in the Dawkins sense of the word: natural selection of expressions. So how do we deal with the nasty stuff?

    I think we need to start considering focusing all the justice of civil compensation and prosecutions etc, if there is a case of course, on the "point of the leak", not on folk who simply echo the leak. So if Hulk Hogan wants compensation for an act of revenge porn (I don't know the full details but I assume it must have been revenge porn, I don't think he would have won if he himself published it), he'd have to take it to Gawker or even the person who sent it to Gawker, not everyone else reporting on the story. Otherwise you get farces where because of international servers anyone can find out the UK injunction names but cannot talk about it between them in certain regional parts of the Union. And I'm sure you can still find the Hulk Hogan sex tape somewhere. If you worked hard enough, the killers of James Bulger too.

    One exception to this might be child rape images, where those who echo them must also be punished. Though I think that works because the "Is it consensual? How am I meant to know?" line of thinking doesn't hold up since a child cannot consent whatsoever. And the presumption must be made that those who possess such images must also have knowledge of and history with child rape criminal gangs who profit from the slavery, so it is easily justified to say why law must fight against it. And it succeeds very well because the majority will report and fight against child rapists, not spread evil images.

    ...so again, law only "works" because the masses follow it.

    Therefore, in regards to the stuff where you've got to stop the point of the leaks, we may have to simply face the fact that we're in an age where you can't just walk up to printing-press bottlenecks anymore and put a hold on them. You're up against a massive ball of rubberbands the moment something leaks, and even if you get 99% of them that 1% still lingers waiting to instantly turn into the big ball again (I'm sure there's a better metaphor... probably the ProtoPets from Ratchet and Clank 2). So in this day and age, it makes more sense to focus all your justice on those who take something out of your private sphere initially into the public sphere without permission. Because chasing the echoes is only going to be horrible and ugly.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 1:48pm

    What about the reverse?

    Can people say, "Please don't talk about John Smith because there's an injunction about talking about him"? That way, people know you're talking about him, but you're actually telling people not to talk about him, so you're following the law.

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

  • identicon
    Haggie, 20 May 2016 @ 2:11pm

    Super Injunction Injunction, what's your function?
    Trying to limit freedom of the press
    which is pointless with the Internet.

    Super injunction junction, what's your function?
    To protect British celebrities
    from their own indiscretions.
    Like hookers and blow, your place or mine, cock and tease!
    Hey don't publish that, please.

    Super injunction junction, what's your function?
    I'm going to steal your freedoms if you're not very careful.

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

  • icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 2:41pm

    OK, since some wrong information was carefully not said here, And this is a US site and I am a US citizen and protected by the speech act, I'll say it. Its not Elton John (though he got the injunction). Its his spouse, David Furnich who reportedly had a threesome with Daniel Laurence and his spouse Pieter Van den Bergh.

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

    • identicon
      David, 21 May 2016 @ 12:48am

      Re:

      Good grief. That's even more stupid than I thought. They probably needed the injunction or none of the tabloids would have bothered in the first place.

      I mean, you would have thought this was a Snowden/Merkel/Cameron threesome as a precondition in TTIP negotiations we were talking about here.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 23 May 2016 @ 6:04am

        Re: Re:

        AAARRRGH! I've just had lunch, you toad! Oh, my poor tum! *Retch*gag*retch*

        Mind you, I can see the advantage of demanding such a thing since Snowden is loyal to his girlfriend and is therefore unlikely to agree to it.

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

    • icon
      NoahVail (profile), 21 May 2016 @ 9:28am

      You're right. I tossed sir JOHN out there to point everyone on the right direction.

      What's interesting is all the widespread timidity there is about discussing this. Given the egregious, heavy-handed legal tactics JOHN employed to force everyone into rewriting the past, I'd of expected some backlash.

      However, the TD article felt like pulled punches, maybe followed by skin moisturizer and a pedicure. No names were even hinted at and no mention of the Streisand Effect. It also didn't seem like Mike was having any fun with the pressure to redact.

      It was was surreal and a little spooky.

      Of note there has recently been other similar UK injunction on the Press. Three weeks back, names came out that were buried in a 2011 injunction. They were Wayne Rooney & Helen Wood. I don't know who they are and only mention it now because I wasn't sure which philandering UK celebrities I was looking for.

      Not that I would have been looking for any dallying jackwad at all if aWeSoME cELebRItY MiND PoWEr hadn't been deployed to make UK courts to censor the press.

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

  • icon
    Jeff Green (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 3:00pm

    Who cares?

    Three consenting adults had sex.

    None of the three consenting adults has ever publicly said anything about such things being wrong.

    None of the three adults makes their money out of being upright boring moral guardians.

    So WHY the F*** should anyone care who they are?

    Personally I wouldn't care either way if someone said such things about me, but I do believe everyone is entitled to a degree of privacy and these three seem to want that. Good luck to them. Move on and deal with something genuinely interesting. Courts not being American isn't a bad thing, the English courts haven't tried to impose the injuction in any other jurisdiction, they have weighed English law and acted on it. That's what they are for!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 5:46pm

      Re: Who cares?

      I completely agree. I found the "news" quite lame and nothing of interest. Didn't even care enough to click the link.... But that was until they pulled a stunt like this. I still don't care about the bedroom antics of these people, they can do what they like and good for them that they do, but the minute they threaten with lawsuits and start censoring, I will read the heck out of that story, simply for the reason that such things must not succeed.
      If they succeed here, they will use it in other stories that will be significantly more important than this.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2016 @ 6:59am

      Re: Who cares?

      "None of the three adults makes their money out of being upright boring moral guardians."

      While claiming to the court that the privacy of their young children must be protected they are simultaneously and flagrantly running a public relations exercise using the very same children in public photo appearances to buff their 'perfect family' image. So yes, their public 'family values' image is very important to them and one might be perfectly justified in speculating on whether protecting that public image is more important to them than their children's privacy.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 23 May 2016 @ 6:06am

        Re: Re: Who cares?

        I always laugh when people wibble on about family values on the grounds that five minutes later they'll be caught doing something that contradicts the image they're trying to project.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Blowhard, 21 May 2016 @ 3:26am

    Help our Friends

    Americans should help our friends in the UK by talking about nothing other than celebrity threesome on social media for an entire week.

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

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 21 May 2016 @ 9:33am

    One of the sillier things about it is according to a survey (OK a not particular scientific survey - they just asked loads of people on the street)1 in 5 people in England already know who it is.

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

  • identicon
    Graham J, 21 May 2016 @ 7:19pm

    It's

    Elton John. Big deal.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2016 @ 10:29pm

    So elton john was with a john so what ??

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

  • icon
    Andreas (profile), 23 May 2016 @ 4:37am

    Whatever happened with these celebrities, I'm just glad Elton John and David Furnish are a happy couple.

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


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