Civil Liberty

Oh, how weird

Ms Cadwalladr is running a public interest defence and is not alleging that her statement was true.

I had thought that this really didn’t exist in English law. But it does:

Publication on matter of public interest
(1)It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that—
(a)the statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest; and
(b)the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest.
(2)Subject to subsections (3) and (4), in determining whether the defendant has shown the matters mentioned in subsection (1), the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case.
(3)If the statement complained of was, or formed part of, an accurate and impartial account of a dispute to which the claimant was a party, the court must in determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that publishing the statement was in the public interest disregard any omission of the defendant to take steps to verify the truth of the imputation conveyed by it.
(4)In determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest, the court must make such allowance for editorial judgement as it considers appropriate.
(5)For the avoidance of doubt, the defence under this section may be relied upon irrespective of whether the statement complained of is a statement of fact or a statement of opinion.
(6)The common law defence known as the Reynolds defence is abolished.

2013 apparently.

That’s seems to give coach and horses room for journos to libel but then IANAL and it might all be more subtle than I thought.

Another use in 3….2..1….

A new app which allows people to track their friends’ journeys home has won support from the Home Office to help protect women in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard.

The app, which is being trialled by police, provides any woman or man walking home at night with a route on their phone that is monitored every 10 seconds for any significant deviation that could indicate they are in trouble.

If they stray more than 40 metres from the route or stop for over three minutes, the app asks if they are okay. If there is no reply, then “guardians” – who have been nominated in advance and are drawn from friends and family – receive a notification on their phones to say there has been a deviation.

Stalkers, jealous husbands (and wives), fathers of teenage daughters, controlling folk of all types will be installing this ins 3…2..1…

Why is it that people find it so hard to grasp that surveillance works both ways?

Here’s the mistake

I had a long and decent discussion with one of the architects of the Gender Recognition Act last month. He said to me, “I recognise the free speech issues in your case, but don’t you see that calling a transwoman ‘male’ or ‘he’ is as offensive as calling a black person a nigger?”

No, I said, it is not.

Doesn’t matter whether it is or it isn’t. Calling someone a nigger might get your teeth pushed in – unless you happen to be black apparently – might get you fired and most certainly isn’t something I’d recommend. Yet it is still that issue of free speech. You can say – absent libel and incitement to immediate violence – what the hell you like, you just have to put up with the consequences.

That everyone around you will punish you for calling someone nigger is just fine. That the law might try to ban us from doing so is an abomination. And that’s where the battle is being lost. The only defensible line of where other peoples’ feelings about what is said may define what it is legal to say is “none”.

The only free speech issue is whether we have it or not.

Isn’t that nice of him

Storming the Normandy beaches was all worthwhile:

Prime Minister ends speculation by saying celebrations with families can go ahead

Who doing that ever thought that a Tory PM would give such permission? Or even that British society would accept the idea that such permission should be sought?

You can smell the fascism on this one

Elderly people can end up in oversized or unsafe homes if they retire to the countryside, a think tank report has said.

The Social Market Foundation warned that the older age profiles of some areas were creating growing pressures on services and local economies. 

Scott Corfe, the research director at the cross-party think tank, said there could be “unforeseen consequences” to older people moving from urban areas to the coast or countryside.

“Too many retirees end up in unsuitable, oversized and often unsafe homes, while rising property prices exclude younger families from local housing,” he said. “Local authority areas where the majority of residents are over 65 could struggle to provide their populations with adequate services, and such communities may lack cohesion and intergenerational mixing.”

The insistence upon a propizka system to stop oldies retiring to unsuitable housing will start in 3….2….1…


Religious believers in Australia will be protected from being sued if they make anti-gay comments, under a proposed law that Scott Morrison, the prime minister, said would guard against “cancel culture”.

Why not just have the one overarching law? Folks can say what they want in the absence of, say, libel and immediate incitement to violence? We could call it free speech or summat?

Just a little thought about indigenes

That indigenes where wipipo have gone should be allowed to complain about the wipipo going there seems to be a standard part of the modern morality tale.

That indigenes who are wipipo should not be allowed to complain about the non-wipipo going to indigene wipipo areas seems to be a standard part of the modern morality tale.


Define “harmful”

The Facebook whistleblower whose revelations have tipped the social media giant into crisis has launched a stinging new criticism of Mark Zuckerberg, saying he has not shown any readiness to protect the public from the harm his company is causing.

Frances Haugen told the Observer that Facebook’s founder and chief executive had not displayed a desire to run the company in a way that shields the public from the consequences of harmful content.

It rapidly – as it already has – becomes a list of things that you don’t want people to hear, see or even think about.

Teenage birds and their angst, invermectin, gain of function experiments, climate denial, mispronouning, what else will be on that list? It’s the demand that the public conversation be censored, isn’t it?

“Right now, Mark is unaccountable. He has all the control. He has no oversight, and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern the company at the level that is necessary for public safety.”

And that’s worse. Politics – more likely, the bureaucracy – must have power over that organisation because, well, it’s a source of societal power therefore the permanent bureaucracy must control it. Obvious, right?

There is a deep and important issue here

Facebook watchdogs say the latest whistleblower accounts of wrongdoing underscore the need to regulate the platform.

“It’s time for Congress and the Biden administration to investigate a Facebook business model that profits from spreading the most extreme hate and disinformation,” said Jessica J González, co-CEO of the civil rights organization Free Press Action. “It’s time for immediate action to hold the company accountable for the many harms it’s inflicted on our democracy.”

The allegation is that Facebook allows people to say things that progressives don’t agree with. Therefore Facebook must be regulated so that people cannot say things progressives don’t agree with.

There really isn’t anything else to see here, that is the whole and the full of it.

Comes to something when it’s Vova upholding the Enlightenment

Vladimir Putin said the anti-racism agenda in the West was dividing society as he compared cancel culture warriors in liberal democracies to the Bolsheviks of Russia’s 1917 Revolution.

“The incessant emphasis on race pushes people further apart whereas the true fighters for civic rights tried to eliminate those differences,” the Russian president said.

In a speech at the Valdai Discussion club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, he lashed also lashed out transgender rights, accusing the West of being “monstrous” to children.

Mr Putin went as far as to compare Western activists pushing for a progressive agenda to Bolsheviks of Russia’s 1917 Revolution “who were also utterly intolerant of opinions different from their own.”

He accused progressives of distorting people’s biological traits with transgender rights. The Russian president regularly rails against Western ideologies and presents himself as a defender of “traditional” values.

“People who dare to say men and women still exist as a biological fact are almost ostracised,” he said.

Only a decade back that’s pretty much what we all believed too.

It’s not actually all that difficult

Forstater may or may not succeed in her discrimination case against her employer. She is far from the only person to hold “gender critical” beliefs: if the Tribunal concludes that her employer was right to dismiss her, then other people might feel unable to express their beliefs for fear of losing their jobs. In my view such censorship is unacceptable in a free society. In the interests of free speech, therefore, I support Forstater’s case – though my support is not uncondititional, as I shall explain later.

But that does not mean I endorse her beliefs or her behaviour. Forstater and her supporters aggressively promote their beliefs on Twitter, hijacking threads to grandstand their agenda, forcing their opinions on people who have not invited them, misrepresenting what people have said then gaslighting them when they object, using emotionally-loaded language to short-circuit rational argument, resorting to ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority, insulting people who disagree with them, sealioning people who try to disengage. In short, behaving just like all the other cults that infest this increasingly toxic space. The effect of their behaviour is to prevent rational debate and silence dissenters.

That is free speech. Live with it.

For there’s nothing at all about the concept that states it has to be interesting or mannerly.

That battle for free speech

It’s never ending, isn’t it? Always enemies of it, everywhere:

Miss Lewis was arrested outside Finsbury Park Tube station in north London in February 2020 after it was claimed she said that non-believers and gay people should be stabbed.

She was arrested under the Public Order Act for making homophobic and racist comments. On her arrival at custody, she handed over her mobile phone which had been recording.

In a statement to her trial at Highbury Magistrates Court last month, officer Stuart Day said that the video showed that one of the men who had accused her “very much sounds like he is trying to goad her into commenting on his sexuality. She does not however take the bait”.

The statement continued: “At no point do you hear her make homophobic or racial remarks against anyone… She at no point during the recording is calling for the stabbing or murder of any group based on their lack of religious beliefs.”

Incitement to – immediate – violence should indeed be a crime. But other than that and libel/slander speech needs to be free.

He notes that she repeatedly refers to people as sinners but adds: “I was satisfied that she does not use any homophobic or racial language during this time.”

Rather than having the case dropped, Miss Lewis was charged with a different public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

It was alleged that she had made a child cry and had been threatening when she told one man: “You are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke you in Jesus’ name”.

But District Judge Julia Newton ruled that there was no case to answer as although the words were disagreed with, they were not threatening or abusive. She said that there was no evidence she had caused the children to cry.

Homophobia, racism, making children cry, none of these things should even be part of the issue. Which is rather where the problem is – after that appalling police performance – isn’t it?

The public interest defence

Libel laws probably are a bit too vicious in England (note, not Britain, but England and Wales). And yet:

Defamation law has a value – it protects people from having their reputations damaged by untrue claims. But it can also be exploited. Whatever the merits of these particular cases, the threat of litigation can be used to suppress the sort of writing that serves the public interest in knowing about how people come to accumulate and deploy the financial or political power that shapes our lives. This is a global problem, but London and its specialist law firms are very much its beating heart. Cases such as this, where the rich and powerful resort to the law to challenge journalists and publishers over what appear to be matters of public interest, should always give rise to concern, and there is a valid argument to make that time, and the legal process, should stop and take stock of the wider concerns this sort of litigation raises.

One way of reading that is that we should be allowed to tell lies about the rich because they’re the establishment, innit?

Which doesn’t really sound like the solution.

We knew this sort of censorship was coming

Facebook failed to enforce its own rules to curb an oil and gas industry misinformation campaign over the climate crisis during last year’s presidential election, according to a new analysis released on Thursday.

The report by the London-based thinktank InfluenceMap identified an increase in advertising on the social media site by ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies aimed at shaping the political debate about policies to address global heating.

Once the power to filter information has been granted then the filtering of information will be done.

InfluenceMap said its research shows the fossil-fuel industry has moved away from outright denying the climate crisis, and is now using social media to promote oil and gas as part of the solution. The report also exposed what it said was Facebook’s role in facilitating the dissemination of false claims about global heating by failing to consistently apply its own policies to stop erroneous advertising.

No one should be allowed to contradict us because we’re “following the science”.

Rather a lot of power over the public space has been conceded there, no?

Race matters

I think that paper looks pretty good,” says Sir John. “We haven’t seen a big problem with blood clots in Latin America, in southeast Asia, and we haven’t seen a lot of blood clots in Africa.

“There is an interesting question over whether there’s a differential liability to blood clots in Northern European Caucasian people in Norway, where they first appeared, as compared to everyone else.”

OK, so it’s some subset of genes prevalent in a population, not actually race. But as it runs out with cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and so on, that concept does actually matter. So too with Vitamin D in high latitudes and so on.

The trick is in working out when such things – as with gender etc – don’t matter and when they do. An adamant insistence – either way, that we must measure by race, or we must not – isn’t a reflection of reality.

OK, and?

First death from mining Bitcoin
Danai Makmek, 26, in Thailand is the latest in a string of industrial accidents caused by unregulated Bitcoin mining

You can see what comes next after “unregulated”. That there should be regulation.

In what is believed to be the industry’s first fatality, a bit-coin “miner” has died after his computer exploded during an attempt to increase its power and allow him to mine more Bitcoins.

The death of Danai Makmek, 26, in Thailand is the latest in a string of industrial accidents caused by unregulated Bitcoin mining, in which practitioners often rig up dozens of computers that then cause power overloads.

Any regulation wouldn’t be about stopping people putting computers in tandem, would it? For that cannot be regulated. Instead it would be something about having to register who owns bitcoin or summat – entirely tangential to the issue but desired by the Swamp anyway.

This is not a loophole

A double child murderer will not be placed on the sex offenders register because of a legal loophole, it has emerged.

Colin Pitchfork, 61, who raped and murdered 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in 1983 and 1986, is set to be freed from HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire after serving 33 years in prison.

However, given that his crimes and sentencing were before 1997

You are charged, tried and sentenced under the law – whatever it was – at the time of your charging, trial and sentence. Actually, to be precise, at the time of the alleged crime.

That’s not a loophole, that’s justice.

Polly’s problem

She sorta dances around it:

Today the European court of justice confirmed the right of private employers to fire staff for wearing headscarves or other religious insignia……but the case proceeded on up to the ECJ, which had opined in 2017 that employers do have the right to sack women in headscarves. There’s a strange legal clash here, as the European convention on human rights – which is independent of the European Union, although every EU country must sign up to it – proclaims freedom to manifest religious belief……..As vice president of HumanistsUK, I might not understand the reasons why, but visible symbols of belief and religious identity plainly matter greatly to many. Unlike French secularists, we stand with Voltaire, famously reported as asserting: “While I wholly disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Quite so.

And the ECJ judgment doesn’t apply in the UK. Because we’ve left the EU. While the ECHR one does apply in the UK, because we’ve not left the Council of Europe.

Therefore leaving the EU and leaving the ECJ was a defence of human rights. Not, as the screaming had it for so long, an abandoning of such protections.

This is, you will recall, something that has been shouted – if we leave Europe, leave the ECJ, then this will be the loss of human rights…..