New event: Digital Media Europe 2013 Hack Day – 13 April 2013

This announcement comes via the excellent Scraperwiki  (a start-up I worked with on a series of events in 2010/11). They have teamed up with WAN-IFRA to put on a hack day at Bloomberg on 13 April 2013.

footer_tractorIn April, global news media execs are gathering in London, to discuss the continuing emergence of digital media at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe 2013 (#DME13). To help launch and influence the digital-first agenda, ScraperWiki is teaming up with Wan IFRA to put together a hack day on Saturday 13th April.

We are looking for developers, information architects, journalists and data scientists, with have an open agenda covering three key themes:

  •  UK and the EU: In or Out?
  • How do we tell stories without sticking to print-first assumptions?
  • Can we make advertising less annoying ? 

 We’ll start at 9 at Bloomberg’s offices at 39-45 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1HD. The plan is to hack all day, finishing code by 5 for prizes, beer and pizza from 6 onwards.

ScraperWiki will be looking into related datasets to have scraped, cleaned and shiny in advance (if you have any ideas for useful ‘sets, drop us a line), so there will be plenty of info available if you need raw data (and an API).

You can register here.

For more information, you can read more on ScraperWiki’s blog.

Posted in education, events, journalism, social media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Law and Media Round Up – 11 March 2013

Yesterday’s round up, with listings for the week ahead can be found on Inforrm’s Blog.

Posted in civil litigation, defamation, leveson inquiry, media ethics, media law, media law mop-up | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

BBC College of Journalism: Social media and the law – a case to regulate or educate?

The BBC College of Journalism has published a selection of views on the CPS Public consultation on its Interim Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media, which closes on 13 March 2013. My contribution is below and the others, including John Cooper QC, Jon Harman, learning design and media director at London’s University of Law, Sue Llewellyn, media trainer, and David Banks, journalist and media law consultant, can be found here.

We’re in a contradictory and disconcerting place at the moment. Three years ago we saw the abolition of criminal libel and blasphemy and the word ‘insulting’ is to be removed from the Public Order Act.

However, there has been increasing use of criminal law in relation to social media – sometimes in disproportionate ways, as in the ‘Twitter joke’ trial. Concerns have also been raised about the consistency and severity of sentencing, especially in relation to sick jokes and political – albeit distasteful – comment.

It appears, as Professor Ian Cram has argued, that much energy is spent on ‘shoehorning new practices and behaviour into existing legal categories’. It is encouraging that the CPS now acknowledges these tensions with its sensible, if vague, interim guidelines.

A more nuanced consideration of social media use and the public interest is certainly needed. But there is another area to emphasise too: education. As the CPS rightly identifies, children ‘may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications and a prosecution is rarely likely to be in the public interest’.

That lack of appreciation may apply to many adults too. Better public legal education around media is needed to prevent genuinely harmful communication acting against the public interest, especially in relation to breaches of reporting restrictions, threats of violence and harassment.

via BBC – Blogs – College of Journalism – Social media and the law: a case to regulate or educate?.

Posted in blogging, education, Public Legal Education, social media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Open letter: Justice and Security Bill is ‘a charter for cover ups’

My name is among the signatories of this open letter written in protest at the measures proposed in the Justice and Security Bill, which has reached its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons.  For more background on this bill see the University of Reading’s Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know project; and the UK Human Rights Blog.

A charter for cover ups

We are deeply concerned by the Justice and Security Bill.

It was drafted in response to legal cases involving allegations of UK complicity in secret rendition, torture and inhumane treatment.

The Bill is a charter for cover ups.

Neither the public, nor the victims, nor their lawyers nor the media will have a right to know.

Court records could be kept secret forever. Secret courts could be extended to undercover police officers, deaths of suspects in custody and deaths in the military.

The measures in the Bill are an attack on open and accessible justice, they threaten the right to a fair trial and the rule of law.

Journalism at its best uncovers the truth and the Bill intends to hide the evidence.

We are asking MPs to make their vote count and oppose the secret courts proposals in the Justice and Security Bill next week.

Full letter and list of signatories on the NUJ website…

Posted in academic research, access to justice, courts, digital open justice, freedom of expression, human rights, press freedom | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Law and Media Round Up – 4 March 2013

This week’s round up, at Inforrm’s Blog. Contempt, defamation, court documents, data protection and more…

Posted in contempt of court, media law, media law mop-up | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New paper: Leveson online – A publicly reported inquiry

My paper on public access to the Leveson Inquiry has been published in the new issue of Ethical Space, The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

Abstract: The Leveson Inquiry has broken new ground for court and political reporting: for the first time a public inquiry held under the Inquiries Act 2005 has been played out live on the internet. Online media provided a chance for ordinary members of the public, non-profit groups and small media organisations to expand and question mainstream media narratives, as they watched, blogged and tweeted proceedings. This paper considers public access to the inquiry, arguing that digital communication has allowed for a newly liberated form of debate and enhanced the public’s entitlement to report what they hear in court, in accordance with a longstanding legal tradition of open justice. Additionally, it has improved UK citizens’ right to freedom of expression – which includes the right to receive as well as impart information and ideas. The public’s increased access to inquiry resources and reporting tools does not necessarily indicate a greater role on the ‘news stage’, but it opens up the possibility for greater public influence on news discourse, and beyond that, political debate.

Citation: Townend, J (2013) ‘Leveson online: A publicly reported inquiry’, Ethical Space, Vol. 10, No. 1.

Posted in academic research, access to justice, blogging, courts, data, digital open justice, freedom of expression, human rights, journalism, leveson inquiry, media ethics, press freedom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rudyard Kipling and the media: ‘Tell it to the public press / And we will do the rest’

A recently discovered poem by Rudyard Kipling, written in 1899, fits the current Leveson/press regulation theme quite neatly – it voices the poet’s frustrations with media questions, opening “Why don’t you write a play – / Why don’t you cut your hair?“. It’s called ‘The Press’; the final two verses echo 21st century concerns about privacy intrusion and financial transactions around private lives:

Do you hope to enter
Fame’s immortal dome?
Do you put the washing out
Or have it done at home?
Have you any morals?
Does your genius burn?
Was you wife a what’s its name?
How much did she earn?

Had your friend a secret
Sorrow, shame or vice –
Have you promised not to tell
What’s your lowest price?
All the housemaid fancied
All the butler guessed
Tell it to the public press
And we will do the rest.

The full poem can be read on…

(From The Cambridge Edition of the Poems of Rudyard Kipling)

Posted in journalism, newspapers, privacy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Law and Media Round Up – 25 February 2013

This week’s law and media round up at Inforrm’s Blog.

I forgot to post the round up for 18 February which can be found here.

Posted in media law mop-up | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Promotion: IBC Legal’s 20th Defamation & Privacy conference 2013


IBC Legal’s 20th Anniversary Defamation & Privacy Conference

  • the future of press regulation in the wake of Leveson and the phone hacking scandal
  • the Defamation bill; strengths, weaknesses and what to expect
  • CPD accredited


  • Ian Hislop, Editor, Private Eye
  • Max Mosley, Former President, FIA
  • Lord Hunt of Wirral, Partner and Chairman, Financial Services Division, DAC Beachcroft LLP Solicitors


  • Andrew Caldecott QC, Head of Chambers, One Brick Court

Industry and Supporting Bodies

  • Michael Harris, Index on Censorship
  • Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, NUJ 
  • Michael McManus, Director of Policy and Transition, PCC
  • Sarah Jones, General Counsel, BBC 


  • Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix Chambers
  • Heather Rogers QC, Doughty Street Chambers
  • Antony White QC, Matrix Chambers

Experts From Practice

  • Susan Aslan, Partner, Aslan Charles Kousetta LLP
  • Mark Lewis, Partner, Taylor Hampton Solicitors

Dates: 22 April 2013

Venue: Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, London, 45 Prescott Street, London, E1 8GP, United Kingdom

Book here, quoting VIP Code FKW82358MJEB for a 10% discount

Posted in defamation, events, media law, privacy, promotion, super injunctions | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Full” courts lists continued: what are the data protection and contempt issues? And who should be able to access them?

A quick update to my recent post on digital publication of Magistrates’ court lists. I reported how blogger Richard Taylor obtained a “full” court list from his local Magistrates’ Court following a Freedom of Information request. However, he did not publish it in full online because he was concerned that it contained material that might be illegal to publish.

He has since received an update from the courts service / MoJ, which has confirmed that the full list was released in error. Significantly, it said:

We believe the majority of the information in the Court Lists is exempt from disclosure under Section 32 (Court Records) and Section 40 (Personal Information) of the Freedom of Information Act. We also believe provision and publication of sensitive personal data may also breach The Data Protection Act. There are also issues around ensuring the appropriate retention and disposal of information. Finally there may be some information whose release is prohibited by statute or where a judge or magistrate will have imposed a reporting restriction.

Jonathan Baines has blogged about the situation and the wider context here, concluding:

While distinction should be drawn between a “full” list, such as was inadvertently disclosed to Richard, and “noticeboard” lists, habitually stuck up outside the court room, the points raised by this incident exemplify some crucial considerations for the development of the justice system in a digital era. It seems clear that, even if a court were permitted to this or similar information, the re-publication by others would infringe one or all of the SO(A)A, DPA and MCA. What this means for the advancement of open justice, the protection of privacy rights and indeed the rehabilitation of offenders is something I hope to try to grapple with in a future post (or posts).

On Twitter, William Perrin, a member of the Government’s Crime and Justice Transparency Sector Panel, points out that the “issue has to be taken in the round, rather than in isolation on DPA alone“. He lists some of the competing interests here.

The other big question that arises is who should be able to access full lists, if at all? A commenter on Taylor’s blog believes:

“There shouldn’t be a separate class of disclosure for special friends in the media – either the information is publicly available – in which case it should be fully published online to everyone, or it shouldn’t be available at all…”

Thoughts/suggestions/links welcome. The discussion continues.

Posted in access to justice, blogging, courts, data, digital open justice, public interest, reporting restrictions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment