Well, well. A supposedly anonymous UK professional footballer has now sued Twitter, along with some Twitter users
for supposedly breaking the "superinjunction" he bought in the UK. As you're probably aware by now, there's been a lot of attention paid to these superinjunctions in the UK, which the rich and famous are able to pay large sums of money to courts to get those courts to issue a superinjunction
that bars anyone from reporting on certain issues -- quite frequently (but not always) concerning marital infidelity. Of course, on our modern internet, where everyone is potentially "the press" this seems pretty silly. While there have been attempts to expand
these superinjunctions to Twitter and Facebook, that seems like an impossible task.
Rather than recognize this simple fact, the footballer in question is suing Twitter. This seems like a total non-starter for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, last year, Congress passed the SPEECH Act
, which protects US businesses against anti-free speech rulings in other countries, including in situations of third party liability where the efforts would be protected under Section 230 (the legislative history on this was quite clear). What this means is that Twitter may be the first big test for the SPEECH Act.
Going after individual users is even more stupid. First of all, it would require Twitter giving up identifying info on those who don't provide it otherwise, and Twitter has been known to fight pretty hard against having to do that. I would imagine that its small, but smart, legal team might enjoy this kind of fight.
But, the bigger point, as mentioned in the PaidContent article linked above is:
Perhaps most of all, the action is like pouring petrol on a fire. In response to the filing, thousands more tweets are now pouring out naming the supposed individual all over again.
It's really not that difficult to find reports of who supposedly is the person involved. Various foreign publications, who are not under UK jurisdiction, have pointed out that the Twitter consensus is that the guy who took out the injunction is Ryan Giggs
. I have no clue if that's who it actually is, but I will say that he's clearly the consensus pick of users on Twitter.
Of course, in suing Twitter, this "anonymous" football player appears to be more or less confirming the consensus. As Deadspin so aptly put it
Totally Anonymous Soccer Player Sues Twitter For Saying Ryan Giggs Had An Affair
Which sorta highlights how incredibly pointless this lawsuit is. If Giggs is not the guy who took out the superinjunction, then it makes no sense to sue people who claim it is Giggs. Thus, in suing, he appears to confirm what he's suing to keep quiet. Brilliant.
On top of that, even the UK press, who is required to not mention the guy's name is having fun with this. In a post about the lawsuit, without naming the guy, Dan Sabbagh at The Guardian posted a lovely graph of how many times the guy's name was mentioned
in the afternoon after the lawsuit was filed:
If the idea was to suppress his name from being mentioned, he seems to have failed badly.
In fact, the UK press is pretty clearly getting fed up with this as well. The Scotland Herald, which notes that it's not subject to the injunction which only applies to England, and not Scotland, has put out the following edition
with a picture of Giggs on the cover, with just a narrow black bar across his eyes:
In an article about it, The Herald notes:
Today we identify the footballer whose name has been linked to a court superinjunction by thousands of postings on Twitter. Why? Because we believe it is unsustainable that the law can be used to prevent newspapers from publishing information that readers can access on the internet at the click of a mouse…
Because we believe it unfair that the law can not only be used to prevent the publication of information which may be in the public interest but also to prevent any mention of such a court order.
I'm beginning to think we should rename the Streisand Effect to the Giggs Effect. I mean, this has taken it to a new level...