Super-injunction crackdown on Google and Twitter could be good news for journalists

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged last week to look at new regulations to cover new media publishers – particularly Twitter – who are making a mockery of UK privacy laws.
He had better act fast because unregulated blogs and Twitterers are having a field day with the issue of super-injunctions.

The latest miscreant I’ve seen is Google, via a hugely popular blog which has published a shared Google Doc listing all 80 of the privacy injunctions that we know about and listing many of those who are believed to be behind them. The spreadsheet includes a column amusingly headed “proof” about the provenance of each alleged injunction – which often lists this as “speculation”.

I would argue that by publishing this spreadsheet Google is just as much a publisher as any blog or newspaper website. Incidentally, the blog itself is hosted by Google on its Blogger platform.

Some newspapers say that the widespread flouting of injunctions online is an argument for doing away with them.
But surely there will always be a case for prior-restraint on journalism in some cases? Such as in criminal prosecutions for blackmail and to protect vulnerable children.

Shouldn’t the super-injunction furore be viewed as an opportunity to reign in the many blogs, social media websites and others who seek to publish without responsibility?

This could turn out to be an opportunity for the professional journalism industry – an industry which invests a great deal of time and money in ensuring that what it publishes is legal and ethical.

New Government regulation on publishers such as Twitter and Google could enable the real publishing industry to regain ground lost to new media – particularly the many millions of lost advertising income.

Perhaps Twitter and Google need to learn that you can’t do news for free and you can’t let people stick anything they like on your website without accepting the consequences.

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