Hot from the BBC, news of a rare victory for “paedophiles”:
A convicted sex offender has won a High Court order for the removal of a Facebook page set up to monitor paedophiles in Northern Ireland. A judge ruled some content amounted to prima facie harassment of the man and risked infringing his human rights.
Time to break open the champagne? Sure, why not enjoy the moment, although this humane court decision is sure to provoke a whopping backlash, with predictable howls that it is an example of “human rights gone mad”. In fact I do predict it, and will eat my website if it fails to happen PDQ. Also, it looks as though the decision will be easy to get around, at least in the short term: already the offending page has been replaced by others with similar names.
While it is encouraging that a sex offender has at least been acknowledged as a human being with the same right as anyone else right to freedom from harassment, I am also a bit worried about the mushrooming phenomenon of legal action against freedom of expression online.
There has been a whole rash of arrests this month in the UK of people making tweets that do not harass anyone but are merely “offensive”. In one case a guy was collared by the police and ended up in a prison cell for tweeting a photo of a burning poppy. Apparently, this was taken as an insult to the nation’s war dead, who are commemorated each year in a Remembrance Day that features poppies, which symbolise “the fallen”.
If giving offence online is enough to get you arrested, I guess Heretic TOC cannot expect to be at liberty for long.
Offline, meanwhile, the Leveson inquiry reported in the UK this week with a damning indictment of numerous press misdeeds including harassing the relatives of a murder victim. Leveson is right to insist the press should conduct its business in a civilized way and that this should be overseen by an independent body. This need not entail the threat of state censorship as the scare-mongering press have loudly bruited.
The biggest threat to press freedom in Britain and elsewhere is the near monopoly of the media by a tiny number of overmighty media barons, especially the appalling Rupert Murdoch: this stranglehold enables the opinions of that one man to crowd out those of nearly all others. The result is not democracy but Murdochracy.