Bad Libel Law Strikes Again: Silly UK Twitter Spat Results In Six Figure Payout

from the wtf? dept

For years we've pointed out that UK libel law, in particular, was horrible and easily abused to chill speech. Things appear to have gotten somewhat better -- as some really bad cases at least made people realize that some of the more extreme issues needed to be fixed, but on the whole, UK libel law is still incredibly broad, and can and does stifle speech (and, yes, I know, the UK doesn't have the same free speech protections as the US does -- but it should). This latest case is just a good example of why the UK's standards for libel are so problematic.

The story involves two columnist/writers in the UK who got into a bit of a Twitter spat. Part of the problem, here, is that a lot of people have very strong emotional opinions about at least one of the parties in the lawsuit. Katie Hopkins has made a name for herself saying outrageous things and has been referred to, multiple times, as a professional troll. There are lots of people who dislike her, and certainly are quite happy to see that she's come out the big loser in this libel dispute. But before you celebrate, the details here are important, and quite worrisome, if you support freedom of expression.

I recommend reading the full ruling by the UK High Court, which makes it pretty clear that this was just a fairly quick and silly Twitter spat -- not unlike one that many, many people (perhaps, including, some of you reading this right now...) get involved in each day. The background is that another columnist, Laurie Penny, had tweeted something more or less saying she was okay with some graffiti on a WWII memorial in London. Hopkins got angry at Penny's tweets and there were some angry tweets about Penny. That got some press attention for reasons I don't fully understand. A week or so later, Hopkins starts tweeting angrily at a different columnist, Jack Monroe, sort of referencing back to Penny's tweets about the memorial vandalism. And, as the court ruling notes, the following happened:

  1. At 7.20pm Ms Hopkins posted the first tweet of which Ms Monroe complains (“The First Tweet”). It was in these words: “@MsJackMonroe scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”
  2. At 7.33pm Ms Monroe tweeted in these terms: “I have NEVER ‘scrawled on a memorial’. Brother in the RAF. Dad was a Para in the Falklands. You’re a piece of shit.” (With a screenshot to the First Tweet)
  3. Ms Monroe tweeted again at 7.36pm: “I’m asking you nicely to please delete this lie Katie, and if I have to ask again it will be through my lawyer.” (With a link to the First Tweet)
  4. At 8.14pm Ms Monroe tweeted again, this time using Ms Hopkins’ Twitter handle: “Dear @KTHopkins, public apology +£5k to migrant rescue & I won’t sue. It’ll be cheaper for you and v. satisfying for me.”
  5. At some point between the posting of that tweet and 9.47pm, the First Tweet was deleted by Ms Hopkins.
  6. At 9.47pm Ms Hopkins posted the second tweet of which Ms Monroe complains (“the Second Tweet”). It was in these terms: “Can someone explain to me - in 10 words or less - the difference between irritant @PennyRed and social anthrax @Jack Monroe.”
  7. At some point that evening, I infer about this time, Ms Hopkins blocked Ms Monroe. That prevented Ms Monroe from communicating with her via Twitter.
  8. Later on 18 May 2015 the Claimant published the following on Twitter: “BA_DA_BOOM! It lies! It smears! It’s wrong! It panics! It blocks! It’s @KTHopkins everyone!” (With six pictures of a chicken)
  9. At 22:30 on 18 May 2015 the Claimant published the following on Twitter: “Gin o clock. Cheers. God isn’t it good sweet justice when a poisonous bully gets shown up for what it is and runs runs runs away.”

That's it. Literally that's it. That was the entire Twitter spat, which again -- for reasons I cannot comprehend -- got a bunch of press attention. Based on that, Monroe sued Hopkins for defamation. And won. Again, let's be clear about the entire extent of the fight here. Hopkins tweeted something that was, admittedly stupid and provoking, at Monroe. But it made no statement of fact about Monroe (as would be required in the US). That tweet was deleted within 2 and a half hours (and possibly earlier). Then there was a second tweet, in which Hopkins seemed to admit that she got confused between Monroe and Penny, but again made no statement of fact, just called Monroe "social anthrax."

I've been in Twitter fights significantly worse than that. In fact, there's a decent chance I'll be in a Twitter fight significantly more crazy than that by the end of this week. These kinds of silly spats happen all the time. It's just kind of the nature of Twitter. In the US, such a lawsuit would go nowhere quite fast on basically every possible grounds. There's no false statement of fact that would in any way harm Monroe's reputation. There's no actual malice as required for defamation of a public figure (which Monroe certainly is). And the entire thing is a Twitter spat, which in context is little more than a few insults flung back and forth at one another. Honestly going through the entire exchange, the only thing even remotely sorta, barely (but not really) approaching a "statement of fact" would be Monroe calling Hopkins "a piece of shit." But that's clearly rhetorical hyperbole, as was most of the discussion.

This kind of dispute would be laughed out of a US court. But... over in the UK, Monroe wins, even as the court admits the whole thing is kind of silly. The court even admits that no "reasonable reader" would think that Hopkins was actually saying that Monroe had done the vandalism. But the court still finds this to be defamation -- which boggles the mind:

Ms Monroe complains of the natural and ordinary meaning. That is not the same as a literal meaning. The literal meaning, that Ms Monroe had herself scrawled on and vandalised a memorial, would be rejected by the reasonable reader, having regard to the context. The reader would see the tweet as having an element of metaphor. But it is, to my mind, an inescapable conclusion that the ordinary reasonable reader of the First Tweet would understand it to mean that Ms Monroe “condoned and approved of scrawling on war memorials, vandalising monuments commemorating those who fought for her freedom.” That is a meaning that emerges clearly enough, making full allowance for everything that seems to me relevant by way of context: the characteristics of Ms Hopkins and Ms Monroe, the nature of Twitter, and the immediately surrounding contextual material on Twitter. The reference to Grandma would not be understood, but that would not affect the reader’s conclusion.

But how is that possibly "defamatory"? Well, again, in the UK, what counts as defamatory is quite different than what counts as defamatory in the US. Apparently, in the UK, saying mean things about someone is defamatory. Indeed, the court even admits that this is about whether or not your feelings get hurt:

All of this, however, is about injury to feelings, and the issue I have to address at this stage is whether serious harm to reputation has been proved.

Injury to feelings? That's where freedom of speech goes to die. Anyone's feelings can get hurt over just about anything. People insult one another all the time, sometimes publicly. I'm constantly reading about politicians (including in the UK) insulting one another. That shouldn't be defamation. But, apparently, it is.

I have reached the clear conclusion that the Serious Harm requirement is satisfied, on the straightforward basis that the tweets complained of have a tendency to cause harm to this claimant’s reputation in the eyes of third parties, of a kind that would be serious for her.

And, yes, I understand that part of the reason why UK defamation law (and defamation law in many other countries) works this way. Historically, it was to allow those who had no other recourse to hit back at the more powerful saying things that would damage their reputation. So, for example, if a newspaper printed something that seriously harmed someone's reputation, that individual would not have any recourse. But that's not the case today. And that's clearly evidenced by the fact that this happened on Twitter where both sides got to clearly express their side and their anger. So you don't need a court to come in and claim that there was "serious harm" to Monroe's reputation, because that makes no sense. Those who respect Monroe would clearly see her tweets responding angrily to Hopkins and would pretty quickly recognize that Hopkins, in true Hopkins fashion, was saying nutty stuff again.

The court tries to do away with this point, by arguing that the two did not have many overlapping followers, so the followers of Hopkins wouldn't necessarily see Monroe's responses:

Ms Monroe’s own responses on Twitter. These are said to have mitigated harm by making her position clear. There are several difficulties with this contention. One is that denials are not at all the same thing as corrections, retractions or apologies. The response of the accused is inherently unlikely to undo the damage caused initially. A second, and probably more significant point, is that Ms Monroe had no access to the followers of Ms Hopkins. The fact that the overlap in their followers was so small tends to undermine this submission.

But if that's the case, what's the "concern" here? This also seems to ignore that the original Hopkins tweet appears to have been directed at Monroe, meaning only those who followed both would see it. Separately, given the widespread news coverage of this, people who actually cared would likely have seen the whole debate play out. Furthermore, what difference does it make that "denials are not at all the same thing as corrections, retractions or apologies." So what? In the marketplace of ideas, people present their positions and everyone gets to decide who they believe. And here it seems pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that Hopkins tweeted out some crazy angry insults without realizing what she was doing. That should harm her own reputation (even if her reputation is saying silly nonsense stuff already) without needing a court to say she defamed Monroe.

Eventually, the court comes up with a totally subjective "scale" of injury to feelings to determine how much Hopkins needs to pay:

In this case, the allegations were serious but certainly not towards the top end of the scale. The extent of publication was significant but not massive in its scale. The harm to reputation, though serious, will not have been grave. The need for vindication is not a weighty factor, as there has been no attempt to prove the truth of what was alleged. This judgment will make the position clear to those who were unaware of it already. Ms Monroe is a public figure, in the sense that she chooses to engage in public life and to engage in political discourse in public forums. The injury to feelings was real and substantial, and has continued. It has been significantly exacerbated by the way the defence has been conducted. Nonetheless, compensation for hurt feelings should be in scale with the award that seeks to compensate for harm to reputation.

Taking account of all these matters, my award is £24,000. That is divided into £16,000 for the First Tweet and £8,000 for the Second Tweet. The reason for this division is that the majority of the harm to reputation will have been caused by the First Tweet, and it was that tweet that caused the greatest injury to feelings at the time. These awards are higher than they would have been, if damages had been assessed at or shortly after the time of publication, because they take account of the fact that harm to reputation has continued, and injury to feelings has been increased by the defendant’s behaviour.

The First Tweet was a mistake. It was not fully retracted but there has been no attempt to prove the truth of what was suggested. Ms Hopkins will realise, and no doubt be advised, that to repeat the same message would be likely to result in a substantial damages award. I do not consider that there is any evidence of a threat or risk of repetition. There is no need for an injunction.

I don't understand this at all. The whole idea that someone's feelings getting hurt is defamation is completely antithetical to any reasonable support of a regime of freedom of expression. Based on the standards in this ruling, a ridiculous number of tweets happening right this very second could be subject to massive monetary awards in the UK, and that's crazy. At worst this will lead to more silly litigation over schoolyard spats that now take place online. Alternatively, it will lead people to self-censor and simply not speak out online for fear of being sued. That's the chilling effects that comes when you have laws that decide freedom of expression is not a priority. No matter your opinion of Hopkins or Monroe (and I'm no fan of Hopkins), this ruling is dangerous for freedom of expression online.


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 10:47am

    Twitter is full of Twits. News at 11!

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:08am

    This is probably gonna get me flagged...

    The whole idea that someone's feelings getting hurt is defamation is completely antithetical to any reasonable support of a regime of freedom of expression.

    Remember when Trump said he was going to "open up" defamation law? This is probably the kind of thing he was talking about.

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

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 5:27pm

      Re: This is probably gonna get me flagged...

      That's right, Mike. And I think he was thinking of you.

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

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:33pm

      Re: This is probably gonna get me flagged...

      Hey Stephen! You are also "stotwblr", right? You know what gives you away? The Nazi comments. You like to comment about Nazis (you seem a little obsessed, actually), when you in disguise. In case anyone was wondering, stotwblr and Stephen T. Stone and Michael Masnick are all the same author. Easy to spot.

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        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:38pm

        Re: Re: This is probably gonna get me flagged...

        Wow, is this cool! I have this database, see, of all the TechDirt registered users. It has their name, picture, first appearance, last appearance, and all their messages. They have almost ALL the same opinions, spoken in the SAME VLICE! What are the chances of that? By which, I mean, that this site is a HUGE FRAUD, hosting people who DON'T ACTUALLY EXIST, but appear to. Interesting, no?

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  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:45am

    "The whole idea that someone's feelings getting hurt is defamation is completely antithetical to any reasonable support of a regime of freedom of expression."

    It's more than that, it's antithetical to the definition of defamation.

    Defamation is not concerned with someone's feelings being hurt--their feelings about themselves--it's concerned with other people's feelings--reputation. If people think or even might think less of you for this statement, then you have been defamed. If you think less of yourself, you've been harmed, I suppose, but it's not defamation.

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

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:45pm

      Re:

      That's deep. Here's a question. If I defame someone accidentally, should I have to be held liable to recompense them?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 1:03am

      Re:

      IANAL in either the UK or US (or anywhere else for that matter...), but just because they - and other nations - both use the word defamation, and at a high, general level they might mean the same or something similar, does not mean that their legal systems define the details of the word to have the same meaning, or that their precedents over the meaning are the same.

      Therefore in the UK, the legal definition and practice of the word defamation is a little different to that of the US, which is slightly different to Canada, and so on.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      That is entirely reasonable, Tim. As Ken "Popehat" White would say, we can't allow our freedom of expression to be held hostage by other people's feelings. If we do, the end result is a lifetime spent walking on eggshells terrified of offending the most thin-skinned people in existence. No thank you.

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  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 12:03pm

    With six pictures of a chicken

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

  • icon
    John Savona (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 12:06pm

    Perhaps I overlooked something

    Article title ..Results In Six Figure Payout

    Judgement for £24,000
    where does the 'sixth' figure come from?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 12:08pm

    In the UK no one really cares, because Katie Hopkins is a dumbass, so they are glad she lost. It's both nice, in that a known evil dumbass lost, as well as not so nice in that she shouldn't have lost.

    It would be like Trump losing a court case unjustifiably. Also she likes Trump.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:03am

      Re:

      Mike has been at pains to point this out for years, so here we go again: if the most egregiously awful speech ain't protected, none of it is protected.

      Katie Hopkins is an awful woman, end of discussion.

      However, making her pay out for a deleted tweet accusing Jack Monroe of something she didn't do is both unreasonable and unfair. She deleted the tweet, so no harm was done to Jack's reputation. Nobody believes that Jack Monroe is in the business of defacing war memorial and therefore no harm was done to Jack.

      If we want to bash Katie for being an obnoxious creature then by all means bash Katie for being an obnoxious creature. That is what Twitter is for, not the flippin' courts.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 12:49pm

    Hokay, Person A falsely accuses Person B of a despicable crime (vandalizing a war memorial), gets sued for defamation, loses, has to pay. Not seeing the "bad" part.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:06am

      Re:

      Person A deleted the offending tweet, nobody believes Person B did anything wrong, Person B doesn't have to spend any amount of time fending off accusations of wrongdoing, her name dragged through the mud in every media outlet until she loses her job, etc. None o' that happens because Person A deleted the flippin' tweet.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 12:50pm

    not just the UK's libel laws that are 'problematic'. try looking at any recent cases involving copyright, downloading, copying plus all to do with the entertainment industries and any associated prison sentences that can be handed out for the smallest of crimes and how some serious crimes, like rape, for example, carry lesser sentences than copy a friggin' media disk! shows how screwed up the law is in general and how the entertainment industries have managed to bribe politicians into giving them what they want at the expense of almost all other crimes!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 1:01pm

    Katie Hopkins has form. She deserved this.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      If I were to call you “a worthless sack of dog vomit”, would you deem it fair to make me pay for hurting your feelings? Because that is what happened here — Person A hurt Person B’s feelings, and now Person A has to literally pay for having done so.

      Maybe you feel morally righteous by saying “she deserved it”. And maybe she did deserve to face some form of consequences for her petty and ridiculous actions. But this particular set of consequences places an undue restriction on a particular type of speech. Now that this precedent is set, anyone in the UK could conceivably be sued for saying something that “hurts someone’s feelings”.

      If you think someone deserves that fate, I would ask you this: How many times you have hurt someone else’s feelings, and how much money do you believe they should take from you to soothe their pain?

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

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 5:28pm

        Re: Re:

        I would say "that's what you are, but what am I?". And then I would wait until you cried like the little bitch you are, Mike.

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

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          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hey I have a question, Stephen (Michael Masnick). Do you ever get confused about who you are? You are really consistent in your use of Nazi in your various identities, and Michael Masnick actually looks like of like a Nazi, but never uses the term. Are you a secret Nazi, and only have a chance to express your pathology in this forum? Or do you hate Nazis, maybe traumatized as a child by a film, or stories from your parents? I recommend getting over it, it really points you out among your (hundreds of) false identities.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 4:38am

        Re: Re:

        This is nothing to do with hurt feelings, but a slander accusing / implying Ms Monroe was guilty of a crime.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          This “slander” happened on Twitter, where only a handful of people could have seen the original tweet in the moment it was posted. How it could have affected Ms. Monroe beyond hurting her feelings is beyond me, as the tweet did not appear to gain any widespread traction in the public sphere until this lawsuit happened. Any harm to her public reputation seems, at best, rather limited.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:15am

        Re: Re:

        I get accused of all sorts of crazy stuff on Twitter all the time. I don't lose my crap over it and have never even imagined suing some twerp over a tweet. That's what blocking and muting are for.

        I've had someone try to get me sacked from my job for opining on online reputation issues by lying about me. This was an anonymous troll. I contented myself by posting rebuttals and challenging troll to produce evidence or STFU. He chose the latter option, I was promoted at work, and have not suffered any loss of reputation despite the troll's best efforts.

        I've said it before and I'll say it again: people can say whatever they want about you but that just makes people check you out to see your side of the story. Make sure they find the person you want them to find when they're reading your blog, etc. by behaving as you want to be perceived. I can be a little snarky at times but as a rule I try to get along with everybody else. Regular TD readers will have noticed me posting: is that what you guys see?

        I'm with Mike for the most part but I daresay this was more about punishing Katie Hopkins for being a horrible person on principle than for hurting Jack Monroe's feelings. That is what the British trendy liberals are celebrating, after all.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous UK Resident #5424743871, 13 Mar 2017 @ 1:40pm

      Re:

      Hopkins deserves scorn, ridicule, and possibly a cataclysmic bollocking from her employer. Although given that her employer is the Daily Mail, they'll probably pay the £24k and call it publicity.

      What she does not deserve is a bullshitty libel judgement against her.

      Alas, such is UK law. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words earn me a fat fucking payout.

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  • identicon
    Kipling, 13 Mar 2017 @ 1:05pm

    Twits

    Monroe received death threats from some of Holmes' rabid Twit followers (of which she has plenty) as a result of the first tweet. UK "patriots" can be just as unpleasant as the US version, though with fewer guns.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 2:09pm

    Injury to feelings? That's where freedom of speech goes to die. Anyone's feelings can get hurt over just about anything. People insult one another all the time, sometimes publicly. I'm constantly reading about politicians (including in the UK) insulting one another. That shouldn't be defamation. But, apparently, it is.

    As the saying goes, the best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it in all cases. Drag a few politicians to court for insulting people and I imagine the law would be changed right quick, though I grant it's entirely possible that the only change to it would be an addendum stating that it doesn't apply to politicians.

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

  • icon
    DocGerbil100 (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:04pm

    Hello, Mr Masnick. :)

    I can see that this one may be difficult to appreciate, particularly for non-Britons and even for British readers younger than a certain age.

    I can't be arsed to read the full judgment - it's about Katie Hopkins and someone I've never heard of, so fuck it - but I shall say how this comes across to me, from this article.

    "[...] it is, to my mind, an inescapable conclusion that the ordinary reasonable reader of the First Tweet would understand it to mean that Ms Monroe “condoned and approved of scrawling on war memorials, vandalising monuments commemorating those who fought for her freedom.” That is a meaning that emerges clearly enough, making full allowance for everything that seems to me relevant by way of context [...]"

    To my mind, this is the single most important sentence in the article. The offending tweet does give me that impression and it's what basically hangs Katie Hopkins in the eyes of the judge. Since many of Ms Hopkins followers could see the allegation (however inexplicitly given), but not the replies, it was extremely bad for Ms Monroe's reputation.

    To understand just why it's such a bad thing, I shall have to digress somewhat...

    Forgive me for saying so, but on the whole, Americans do not seem to understand war. You - like we Brits - are very good at exporting it to other countries, but you don't seem to really have a grasp of what real war - in your own country, with your own houses and neighbours and families being randomly gassed, incinerated or blasted into flying chunky pieces - is actually like.

    I'm a Londoner. I wasn't around during World War II, but I grew up in it's shadow. My childhood home was part of a terrace - a row of attached houses - and my back garden should have overlooked a mirror image of similar houses. Instead, it enjoyed a wall of corrugated iron, behind which was a street-length pile of utterly demolished rubble known as a bombsite. Behind that was another row of buildings, still standing, but wrecked beyond any hope of repair or habitation. The destroyed streets were eventually bulldozed and rebuilt into a rather nasty modern housing estate, some time in the 1980s.

    It's my understanding that, during the war, the German Luftwaffe bombed over forty thousand of my people out of existence and wounded around a hundred and forty thousand more. Impossible numbers of people were reduced to homeless refugees. To this day, there are odd corners and bits of London, here and there, that have still not been rebuilt, three-quarters of a century later.

    I don't know - and don't want to know - how many families were wiped out fifty feet from my childhood home. Unless they were originally war refugees from somewhere else, I doubt too many Americans have ever had to think such a thought.

    Leaving aside the relatively-new and very special horrors that today's political corruption and vile oil wars have brought to the world, when we send soldiers out to kill and die in our name, we do it very seriously, to keep that kind of shit from ever coming to our door again.

    And when we build a memorial to the ones that died, we take it very, very seriously indeed.

    Vandalising a war memorial is a Very, Very Bad Thing in the eyes of some of us. Anyone genuinely advocating such behaviour could very easily find themselves with no career, no home and quite possibly no head attached to their shoulders.

    I've no idea how Laurie Penny - the columnist who apparently did actually say Very Stupid Things - still has a job anywhere. If she ends up unemployed and homeless, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

    There are more than a few pubs where - if she goes there and says the same things - she just will not make it out alive.

    Ms Hopkins' tweet was undoubtedly harmful to Ms Monroe. In all likelihood, Ms Monroe felt she had no real option but to go to court. Once there, the damage to her reputation would have become far more severe if she'd lost.

    Britain's libel laws are appalling, no question there at all. One day, we might actually get around to fixing them. But under that bad law, the court has rendered the only verdict that could possibly be considered just.

    The business about hurt feelings is a little weirder, even for me, but I suspect the judge just wanted some excuse - any excuse - to crank up the damages, so Ms Monroe can be clearly be seen to have won and Ms Hopkins can be clearly seen to have lost badly - and to try and make sure she thinks twice before tweeting anything quite so pointlessly stupid and damaging again.

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 7:05pm

      Re:

      Pride, reputation, honor. Wonderful things for a country, for a social group, even for each of us, individually. Things worth fighting to try to preserve, and punishing should others intrude. Think about your values, your dreams, your tragedies, and the noble souls who gave their lives that you might live in a free country. Disparage them at your peril. Disparage noble people at your peril. Well spoken. Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life. The price of greatness is responsibility, and accountability, to a judge, should you disparage great voices, noble souls and just causes.

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

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        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 7:11pm

        Re: Re:

        And to you, all my socialist commentators in your various disguises, consider that a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. The power of an air force is terrific when there is nothing to oppose it. And the power of good ideas is that they ALWAYS silence cowardly impersonators like yourselves.

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          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 7:15pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          He really was inspirational, Churchill, don't you think? Great man who may have been the only soul ever placed on this earth capable of rising to the challenge he faced. His voice, his ideas, his courage and strength of spirit fed the souls of all Britain, and eventually, all the world, while bombs fell and neighbors perished. What a voice. Silence it at your peril.

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      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 7:44pm

      Re:

      I would just mention, with full appreciation of your article and your points and your proud heritage, that some Americans do understand war. We Hamiltonians, for example, have many traditions dating back to the Revolutionary War, fought by brave souls, many who perished, but will never be forgotten. We remember war, as do you. Terrible thing, war, and we all hope that we will never have to engage in such horror again. We have before and we could again, but we never wish to. Should the need arise, however, and our hard fought freedoms are imperiled, as they are from this web site, which continually silences free speech, we shall re-engage. First here, with our voices, then in court, with our attorneys, and then wherever we must to defend our freedoms, and our hard fought historical victories over suppressive regimes like TechDirt. I salute you as a fellow veteran, my friend, whether by arms or by unending conviction and perseverance against those who would silence us.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      The business about hurt feelings is a little weirder, even for me, but I suspect the judge just wanted some excuse - any excuse - to crank up the damages, so Ms Monroe can be clearly be seen to have won and Ms Hopkins can be clearly seen to have lost badly - and to try and make sure she thinks twice before tweeting anything quite so pointlessly stupid and damaging again.

      Thanks for the extra background info, good to have a better understanding on the matter.

      I was with you right up until that last bit, where things took a bit of a left turn. Person A said something untrue and harmful to/about Person B, it caused demonstrable harm, and therefore is defamatory and they are liable for damages seems reasonable enough. But to increase it based upon hurt feelings I feel steps over the line, and almost seems vindictive to me, which is not something you want to see in a judge, so that part(assuming your guess as to the judge's reasoning is right) is something I do not think is reasonable or should have been done.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 6:51pm

    Well said, and Bravo. You are a fine writer, and make a great point. Very true to the soul of the honest and sincere people listening. Not sure you will find many of those of this site (they are mostly socialists in disguise), but thank you very much for sharing what appears to be very personal, thoughtful, genuine and compelling public commentary.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 8:24pm

    "and, yes, I know, the UK doesn't have the same free speech protections as the US does -- but it should"

    No, it should have what the people of that country say it should. The UK is a democracy and it should determine for itself what it will and will not accept as acceptable conduct as a society.

    This is the problem with US citizens. Democracy is great and good till the people that comprise the democracy decides something against US oriented sensibilities. Then it's terrible and why oh why don't people do it the "right" way! The US government may even initiate covert operations to steer things the "right" way, the American way (just ignore that dictator the military intervention is propping up.)

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Mar 2017 @ 10:30pm

      Re:

      No, it should have what the people of that country say it should. The UK is a democracy and it should determine for itself what it will and will not accept as acceptable conduct as a society.

      Sure. But I will argue, strongly, that they should, as a democracy, choose to have strong support for freedom of expression. I'm not saying it just because it's an "American" value. I'm saying it because of the human rights issues involved. If you do not support free speech, and allow governments to censor, you eventually end up supporting tyranny by that very government. For they will define free speech in a manner that will stifle important voices.

      Free speech is also important for innovation and progress.

      The idea that someone should be punished for tweeting something stupid creates a massive chilling effect. Yes, the people of Great Britain have a right to decide for themselves, but that does not change that I can advocate and explain why they should support very strongly a free speech regime that does not stamp out a person's rights to speak their mind.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 10:49pm

        Re: Re:

        But you wield that same sword of censorship, each and every day, to cut down ANYONE who criticizes you. Ironic, no? But true to your Socialist agenda. You, personally, Michael Masnick, do not deserve the right to censor speech. According to you, you don't even want to, or think people should. But you DO IT every single day, right? Wow, the hypocrisy of you socialist animals, disgusting to all who witness your behavior. Which is why you hide it, each and every day, ashamedly. If you were to wear what people wrote about YOU around your neck, you would never be accepted anywhere in polite society. Which of course, you are not. And likely never will be.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Free speech is also important for innovation and progress.

          You understand that you, personally, have only innovated censorship.

          Michael Masnick, the Inventor of TechDirt, where good ideas go to be buried, anonymously and shamfully.

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            And did anybody notice - my comments were all gone the moment before Mike posted. Then, I think he posted the comment above, and went to bed. I suggest that this is evidence that there is no community policing of comments at all. It's just Mike protecting himself from his detractors. take note - Charles - at this Amazing coincidence.

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

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 12:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Charles - also please check https://www.techdirt.com/user/aphexbr - I think this is Michael Masnick in yet another identity. Come on, 11,919 comments, all with in support of the positions of Michael Masnick? I just don't see that as possible in any reasonable universe. It's Mike just using another name, no one is so committed to his socialist agenda besides himself. Also, read his writings - he never says one word about himself and his life in Spain that is believable - it just doesn't hang together.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 8:55pm

    Yes, that's a fair point. So, we have elections in order to determine who comprises the government. Here's how I think it works - the American system outlines a plan, where everyone who wants to, can get rich. We fully understand that not everyone wants to get rich. Some just don't, for whatever reason. But, we try to appeal to the greedy, hardworking, industrious and most gifted amongst all the world. And then we post a big advertisement "Come to America if you want to be RICH". Implying, of course, go somewhere else if you don't. It has worked so far. I don't say it's perfect, it's just one way to look at the world, as you rightly point out. We've done a lot of good things, though. IPhone, for example, that was American, right? Lots of other examples, too.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 9:35pm

      Re:

      You do realise we know it's you taking to yourself.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 9:41pm

        Re: Re:

        Hahaha. Check again. Listen to the voice closely, not mine. Want to find Mike? Check for Nazi, he's obsessed with them.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 9:47pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          When I talk to myself, I do so openly, and proudly, like an American talking to himself. Not like the shameless imposters that haunt this web site in various voices. Spend some time and listen to them. Not many voices, my friends, just sounds like there are. Called Fake News, Fake Voices, Fake Identities, Fake Discussion, Fake Fake Fake. Really, no kidding, I'm not pulling your leg. And, I'm not pulling on Mike's leg. Suspension hanging typically results in a much slower death than long drop hanging, and the extra weight on the victim’s legs could potentially make the rope mercifully work a little faster. Not doing that at all. Want to drag this hanging out, well into the future. Couple of days 'til you hear from Harder, still time to get more stuff no the record. :)

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 10:03pm

    And I would ask your opinion, my friend, since you are clearly NOT one of the sleazy "Friends of TechDirt", do you think they will silence the voice of Winston Churchill above? What a voice! Unbelievable, have you ever heard it? The fate of the world once rested on that one, unmistakable voice. Will Michael Masnick and his socialist group "Friends of TechDirt" silence that spectacular orator? I think they will. They have no shame, no respect, no ideas, nothing, just the same stupid crap about how laws that protect anyone from their vile, unfounded, uneducated and disgusting socialist opinions should be abandoned, leaving us with nothing but their impotent and incompetent criticisms of great men, great societies, and most of all, great ideas.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 10:58pm

      Re:

      Well, my question has been answered. The shameless Socialists have silenced even Winston Churchill. That's OK, his inspiration lives on, he certainly inspired me. Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:12pm

        Re: Re:

        For those of you who have been wondering who the "Friends of TechDirt" are, here they are - maybe all of them (keep in mind some are one and the same):

        anonymousanonymouscoward darkness glynmoody jnonken masonwheeler regularstone thatoneguy aphexbr davecort gristlemissile joecool max rogerstrong timmaguire42 bas davel gwiz john85851 mhajicek ronalddumsfeld bellac davimack hammy jsavona03 mhhfive sigalrm wanderer benketteridge difdi jdoe668 justok mmasnick techdescartes wolfie0827 capitalisliontamer docgerbil100 jeffp kbode ninja techdirt eca jihoelzer leigh orbitalinsertion techflaws

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2017 @ 11:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Strange, no? If you go to check on TechDirt, hardly any users (that's what my insider friend showed me). But if you look at archive.org, there are thousands. I think these guys actually take the trouble to make a profile, use it for a little while, and then erase it. But, records still remain, the voices can still be heard, and we can tie it up in one "big data" knot of fraud, no problem. Takes a little time, and one or two spies here and there, but the truth will come out. And soon.

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

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 3:31am

    New t-shirt slogan

    Mike, I've got an idea for a new t-shirt slogan for you: Injury to feelings? That's where freedom of speech goes to die.

    That is a great line!

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 4:50am

      Re: New t-shirt slogan

      Wendy, I have a question to pose to you, honestly and sincerely. Did you see the controversy about Milo? He had a lot of people silence his speech, which seemed really wrong. Then, someone put forth his speech about sexual behavior with reference to children under the age of 18. Then, he was banished by the general public, and others. Was this line drawn in the right place? Is there a line at all? Can you describe it?

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:28am

        Limiting my answer only to the subject of Milo. All other questions are irrelevant.

        The way I see it, the “Milo issue” is one without an easy “solution”.

        On one hand: Yes, that racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, hateful sack of elephant spit has every right to say what he wants to say (within legal limits) on a given subject. The government cannot — and should not — silence his speech. If someone offers him a platform while knowing full well how he intends to use it, that is their right.

        On the other hand: He is a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, hateful sack of elephant spit who has used several of his speaking engagements to target specific people (e.g., outing a trans student, pointing out undocumented immigrants) and subject said people to possible harm. (Milo’s followers are not exactly flower-toting hippies.) People have a right to protest against both his speaking engagements and those who gave him access to their platform. Protests, like Milo’s speech, are legally protected speech and should not be infringed upon.

        On one hand: The violent reaction to speech from people like Milo and Richard Spencer does worry me. It reeks of its own brand of fascism: “Say that shit again and I will punch you in the face, motherfucker!”

        On the other hand: Milo and Richard Spencer happen to say some really, really heinous shit — with Spencer calling for a “peaceful genocide” of non-White people — and their viewpoints do not deserve respect. Trying to argue against racists such as them will not get any actual results; they are firm in belief and practiced in rhetoric.

        On one hand: Violence is never the answer.

        On the other hand: Sometimes you have to deal with some stubborn son of a bitch who thinks it is.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:43am

          Re: Limiting my answer only to the subject of Milo. All other questions are irrelevant.

          That would be for the police, my friend. Not you. Right? Law abiding citizen, right?

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:59am

            Re: Re: Limiting my answer only to the subject of Milo. All other questions are irrelevant.

            Seriously, please don't "not respond" to the question, it is about whether or not you are promoting violence against other speakers (like Milo), or me, for that matter. Are you promoting violence, as it appears when you say "Sometimes you have to deal with"?. You mean violence, right, to deal with them? But that is only for the police to consider, right? You sound as if you are promoting violence against a very legitimate (and completely harmless wimp fag) speaker named Milo.

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

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 6:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Limiting my answer only to the subject of Milo. All other questions are irrelevant.

              It goes exactly to my point below, actually, in my open letter to Wendy Cockcroft. Promoting violence means you should lose forever any immunity regarding free speech. You should be held liable from this moment on for everything you say, to everyone you say it. Unless you explain or recant.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:27am

        Re: Re: New t-shirt slogan

        I don't know why this comment was hidden by the community; I'm glad I clicked on it, AC. Okay, an honest and sincere answer: no, I didn't see the controversy about Milo. I am not in the habit of opining on subjects I know nothing about (some people might argue otherwise!) so I'm not going to comment. However, if the public didn't like it, they are as much at liberty to send him packing as he is to speak. Nobody has a right to a compliant audience. A right to speak, yes, but not to be heard. When your comments are hidden, it's the readers who hide them. I'm one of the hiders; if a comment annoys me or seems irrelevant, I'll hide it because I'm not obliged to read it by any law or principle. The same applies to you. If you think, "Oh, it's that awful woman Wendy spouting off again, why should I give her a second of my time," then click the red button, mate. Be my guest. I promise not to have a raving freak over it, nor will I whinge about being censored.

        The Twofold Principle applies: the individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected.

        I see you have a problem with respecting the will of the people. Sort it out, you'll have fewer stress-related problems.

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 8:04am

          Re: Re: Re: New t-shirt slogan

          It was hidden by the community because subsequent comments with the same associated image made it apparent that this is the flood-of-offtopic-trolling-self-replying-posts guy.

          In my case, I flagged it because while I couldn't see an obvious problem with it, the poster's past history makes it clear that there usually is one, and also because leaving it visible encourages people to reply - which only encourages continuation of the posting pattern.

          Normally, when someone who usually makes flag-worthy posts makes one that's actually potentially positive, it's worth encouraging that behavior by leaving that one post alone - but this particular poster's behavior seems to me to lead to the conclusion that any encouragement for any of it will simply encourage the continuation of all of it, and IMO that's not something that is desirable.

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

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 8:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: New t-shirt slogan

            Fair enough.

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

          • identicon
            huh, 14 Mar 2017 @ 9:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: New t-shirt slogan

            "I flagged it because while I couldn't see an obvious problem with it, the poster's past history makes it clear that there usually is one, and also because leaving it visible encourages people to reply - which only encourages continuation of the posting pattern".

            In other words you censored the poster and took away his right to free speech. Do you see how incredibly crazy that sounds?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 4:54am

      Re: New t-shirt slogan

      Another question - say that I am selling a multi-million dollar product. And it's patented. And during my sales pitch, someone pulls up Mike's article about my product, sees that there is controversy about my patent (produced falsely by Mike, with the help of a false author, which Mike knew at the time) and disengages from the conversation. I lose a multi-million dollar sale because of Michael Masnick's publication of false and misleading information about me. Is that still "too bad", or should I legitimately have resource? It's an honest question, really, and one that may well come up in court. I'd be interested in your opinion, as someone who ponders these kind of issues.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 4:59am

    Last question - if I can prove that Mike's source was fake, that changes the entire equation, right? Then the table turns, and no one could consider it free speech that is worth protecting, right? If you're a fake, then no protection, right? That's why journalists are so careful, right? So how can you possibly call what Mike does deserving of free speech protection? Would you agree that even a single reference that was proven to be false, but knowingly promoted by Mike anyway, would completely remove any justifiable free speech defense?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 5:19am

      To Wendy Cockcroft

      I have a proposal to put forward, on behalf of free speech and the globalist world we live in. First, everyone capable of speaking, in any form, has a license to say anything they want. But, the first time they put forth some either already banned speech, or something that they knew to be false, such as a reference to a false author as justification for an article, they lose their free speech protection forever. From that point forward, they may never use that defense again, for they do not deserve it. I read your last article, Wendy, and it seemed to me very sincere writing without a shadow of anything untoward. You have your opinion, it is not mine, but to be honest, I do like to hear it, happy to hear it, actually. What do you think of my proposal, Wendy, I think you sound like an opinionated, but fundamentally fair person. What do you think?

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2017 @ 6:24am

        Re: To Wendy Cockcroft

        Wendy, never mind. You do seem like a nice person, I like to read what you write (a lot actually). But please don't respond. I feel threatened here, literally, and if you look at the posts above, I think with good reason. There are threats of violence being done, and I would rather you were not involved at all. Fourth word, Wendy. See you later.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:31am

          Re: Re: To Wendy Cockcroft

          Take my advice: shove off and stop whingeing. Or take part in the discussions in a reasonable, on-topic way without complaining against Mike, TD, etc. I've hidden your last few comments as irrelevant.

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

  • icon
    flyinginn (profile), 14 Mar 2017 @ 6:54am

    Keen as I am to support freedom of expression, speech is never totally free - the test being actual harm. The line relating to "hurt feelings" is quoted out of context. The judge was rejecting anything about hurt feelings and going on to focus on the real test in law which is harm to reputation. The key to understanding this is the full context of what happened in the UK in terms of Hopkins' claims being all over the tabloids, which amplified the damage to Monroe's reputation. It's like the "glass jaw" cases where if you punch someone during a fight and it turns out he has a fragile jaw, you can't escape damages by saying you didn't know and you just tapped him a bit. The test isn't what you thought you did, it's about the consequences of what you actually did.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 14 Mar 2017 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      I was not aware of Jack Monroe being accused in the press of vandalising war memorials. My understanding of the case is that it was a spat on Twitter that ended up in court. The papers picked up the story as a "Ding dong, the witch is dead!" on one side and "but does that mean we have to live in fear of hurting people's feelings?" on the other.

      If you have any links to the Sun, etc., accusing Jack Monroe of vandalising war memorials, please can you reply with them? If there is no such story anywhere, except in reports on the trial, Jack suffered no harm to her reputation because every Hopkins hater is too busy high-fiving her. I'd also like to see evidence (a link will do) of the death threats she allegedly received as a result of Hopkins's deleted tweet. That's actual harm.

      Is the evidence of harm merely anecdotal or did Jack Monroe suffer as a result of Katie Hopkins mistaking her for someone else?

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

      • icon
        flyinginn (profile), 15 Mar 2017 @ 2:26pm

        Re: Re:

        Wendy, the court decision was based on the evidence including press repetition, as mike observes. You can read it for yourself. I don't need to retry the case to justify my statement.

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

  • identicon
    Dingledore the Mildly Uncomfortable When Seated, 15 Mar 2017 @ 1:35pm

    That doesn't appear to be what the judge wrote

    "The whole idea that someone's feelings getting hurt is defamation is completely antithetical to any reasonable support of a regime of freedom of expression."

    Which is why the judge explicitly writes that this is not the definition of defamation.

    "As Dingemans J (...) unless serious harm to reputation can be established an injury to feelings alone, however grave, will not be sufficient."

    His actual reasoning being...

    "I have reached the clear conclusion that the Serious Harm requirement is satisfied, on the straightforward basis that the tweets complained of have a tendency to cause harm to this claimant’s reputation in the eyes of third parties, of a kind that would be serious for her. "

    It appears that a significant reasons for judging that the Serious Harm requirement had been met were that the tweets were "widely published" by specified "publishees" (which I read as "someone with a reputation"). Which is either the judge not understanding social media, or a judge really understanding social media.

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


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