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In the UK, a Few Tweets Restore Freedom of Speech 216

Several readers wrote to us about the situation in the UK that saw the Guardian newspaper forbidden by a judge from reporting a question in UK parliament. The press's freedom to do so has been fought for since at least 1688 and fully acknowledged since the 19th century. At issue was a matter of public record — but the country's libel laws meant that the newspaper could not inform the public of what parliament was up to. The question concerned the oil trading company Trafigura, the toxic waste scandal they are involved in, and their generous use of libel lawyers to silence those who would report on the whole thing. After tweeters and bloggers shouted about Trafigura all over the Internet, the company's lawyers agreed to drop the gag request.
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In the UK, a Few Tweets Restore Freedom of Speech

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  • Stephen Fry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Canazza ( 1428553 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:30AM (#29742369)

    I loved Stephen Fry's quote on this []

    "Can it be true? Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don't we? We know! Yay!!!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I loved Stephen Fry's quote on this []

      "Can it be true? Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don't we? We know! Yay!!!"

      And so the Brittish people went on living their zombie lives behind their iron curtain, with the feeling that this meaningless victory had changed their lives. In reality they were still being blindfolded, still monitored, still used as mere batteries to the machinery of the Brittish government and financial hierachy.

      • Re:Stephen Fry (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dword ( 735428 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:43AM (#29742421)

        Agreed. Please let me rephrase: twitting and blogging are work-arounds, because the problem is still there. It wasn't fixed by the lawyers dropping the gag request; it will only be fixed as soon as the judge admits that the judgement was a mistake and explains why it was a mistake.

        • Re:Stephen Fry (Score:5, Interesting)

          by teh kurisu ( 701097 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:14AM (#29742767) Homepage

          That depends on what you regard as 'the problem'.

          The 'super-injunction', as the press are calling it, was the injunction placed on the Guardian's publication of the Minton Report [], and the associated gag order that prevented the paper from revealing the existence of the injunction.

          The judge didn't directly apply the gag order to the parliamentary question [] tabled by Paul Farrelly (which didn't exist at the time), and by all accounts the gag order did not cover parliamentary proceedings in any case because of qualified privilege. The only reason it became an issue was because the Guardian received a specific legal threat from law firm Carter-Ruck:

          "The threatened publication would place the Guardian in contempt of court ... please confirm by immediate return that the publications threatened will not take place."

          As we all know, statements made by lawyers are often merely the legal opinions of said lawyers.

          The gag order is the sinister part of the whole thing (not the injunction, which is perfectly reasonable given judicial oversight), but I'd like to point out that these are not uniquely British as the GP seems to be alluding. I'm put in mind of the National Security Letters sent out by arms of the US Government, which placed similar gag orders, but unlike this situation did not have any judicial oversight.

          • Had it been my newspaper, I would have published the news about the court case anyway. Government belongs to the People and all events that happen within that government, especially the Parliament, should be shared with them not hidden.

            If the judge doesn't like it, he can just eat a bullet, and we the People will replace him with our own Judge.

            • by zach_the_lizard ( 1317619 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @08:04AM (#29743017)

              Government belongs to the People

              That's what I said, until those funny men in the black uniforms removed me from the White House lawn for trespassing.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by andrew554 ( 1649757 )

              You’re saying that you’d publish anyway, and then shoot any judge who disagrees?!

              Well, that’s one way of ensuring a speedy judicial process.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by machine321 ( 458769 )

            Minton Report []

            It appears the URL has an unprintable character, so perhaps linking to the page [] about the topic will work.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          I don't know, I think it will be fixed when British legislators change the repressive lible laws. My own country isn't that free either, despite protestations that the US is "the land of the free". As long as there are activities that are illegal but harm no one but the person doing it (an often harm no one at all), you're not really free. As long as the law allows someone else to harm you legally (like the British lible laws), you're not really free either.

          I don't think there really is a free country in th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shrike82 ( 1471633 )
        The only difference between Britain and the rest of the Western World is that our government just suck at hiding their Orwellian monitoring of the general population. You think other governments aren't monitoring, spying and tracking their own citizens? They've just learned from our mistakes about how to keep it quiet...
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The only difference between Britain and the rest of the Western World is that our government just suck at hiding their Orwellian monitoring of the general population. You think other governments aren't monitoring, spying and tracking their own citizens? They've just learned from our mistakes about how to keep it quiet...

          And your point is what? That since all citizens of the western world live as such zombies it's not worth changing anywhere? My guess is that you're not the guy who offers solutions, you're the guy who tries to make problems look smaller by pointing at others. You may be right, but you're not helping anybody, rather the opposite -- providing people with the thought of that it's a pointless battle since everybody experiences the same situation. So my question is then, what are your motives? To have a good lif

          • Re:Stephen Fry (Score:4, Insightful)

            by x2A ( 858210 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:17AM (#29742777)

            That didn't look like his point to me at all...

            "My guess is that you're not the guy who offers solutions"

            *coughs* projecting!!!!!!

        • Re:Stephen Fry (Score:4, Insightful)

          by polar red ( 215081 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:27AM (#29742621)

          You think other governments and corporations aren't monitoring, spying and tracking all citizens/serfs/customers?

          there, fixed that for ya.

          • Meet the old boss, same as the new boss.

            And if you think Government is the solution, then you're part of the problem.

            Now take Health Care Reform, is it about health care or is it about control of the "citizens/serfs/customers" ???

            You willing to give up freedom for security? I'm not.

        • I live in Portugal and the government does not keep such a stronghold on it's citizens. I know both a lot of journalists and quite a few SIS (the local spooks) and no such thing happens. In fact, at the smallest try of interference from the government you usually get a Streisand effect and is promptly newscasted all over the place.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Dear Portuguese fellow countryman, our government in no better then others. In fact, I'd say it's probably one of the more corrupt govs in the so-called "Western World". I agree on the Streisand effect, but it simply has no consequences ... I'd go as far as to say it's a void effect ... you get all the shouting and media frenzy, but it's all quickly forgotten and swept under the rug (normally by said media).

            And you'd have to agree ... it's a damn selective effect ... and the ones who select the causes norma

            • Dear Portuguese friend,

              I live in the USA and have noticed that people get all outraged over the latest scandal and are all up in arms (sometimes literally) over it.

              That is, until an even greater scandal arises in which the first scandal is dropped/forgotten and all outrage and disgust is focused on the NEW scandal of the week. This repeats itself over and over, until someone comes along and promises to make things better.

              At that point, people are happy the scandals have stopped, that they have long forgotte

  • Simon Singh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:35AM (#29742383) Homepage
    Now if Simon Singh could just win his case [], then maybe the world will move one step closer to free and open speech. Security through obscurity never helped anyone in any context (*), and the more knowledge one has the better decisions one can make.

    (*) Counterexamples welcome...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      it's not that it doesn't helped anyone in any context, there's plenty of situations where obscurity was much better than publicity (any military example comes to mind), the problem is that obscurity simply is not actually security at all.

      Obscurity is obscurity, and while you sometimes want obscurity, it's very unhealthy to confuse obscurity with security in an overall sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Security through obscurity never helped anyone in any context

      Security through obscurity is nearly universally useful (provided you don't mind the obscurity). It's not something to entirely rely on, no, but it's difficult to argue that it doesn't help.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

      Security through obscurity never helped anyone in any context

      Security through obscurity is a warning, not a mantra.

    • Re:Simon Singh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EasyTarget ( 43516 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:38AM (#29742659) Journal

      Here's a counterexample.. two in fact.

      20 years ago my motobike was not stolen, even after the thieves had laboriously sliced a chain and wired the ignition. Why? Because the engine would cut out within 10 seconds of starting, eventually they gave up and left. The engine cutting out was down to a obscure little security system I designed, built and fitted myself, killed the ignition for 2 seconds out of every 10 unless a magnet was held in the correct place as the ignition was turned on. The thieves probably never even suspected it was deliberate, they probably thought the bike was a lemon.. which is arguably true ;-)

      My server, which has no open public SSH port.. Unless you know exactly where to look and when.

      Both of these work because they are genuinely obscure single implementations. In order to break them the attacker would need to know that it exists, and then spend time analysing the unit to break it. Even if they know there is a hidden layer of defence, is the payout (a crummy motorcycle, control of my printer and access to my photos and porn collection) worth their time to break it?

      The sort of Security through Obscurity you describe fails because it is identically implemented in millions of devices, ie. It is not really Obscure, it's just a secret. And if you break it in one place you break it in all places. The payout for finding and breaking it is much, much, greater.

      • Re:Simon Singh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by arethuza ( 737069 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:59AM (#29742989)
        Stop being sensible about this kind of thing, it upsets a lot of the "Security Experts" out there.
      • by Inda ( 580031 )
        I like your motorbike story. I too didn't have my motorbike stolen 20 years ago.

        They broke the chain and padlock.

        They rammed a screwdriver in the ignition and turned on the electrics.

        I had no kickstart so the only way to fire the engine was to bump it.

        I had an FS1E and those in the know would know that the gearbox is upsidedown. The twats were trying to bump it in top (4th) gear and it wouldn't start. They didn't even set fire to it, which is still surprising to this day.

        I miss that bike. 70mph down hill on
        • HeHe, I never had a Fizzy (really wanted one, coolest bike on the block, had to settle for a Honda Camino instead) but I did ride my mates one a few times and the gearbox, as they say, did my 'ed in. I can well imagine the twats not working that out. :-)

          My bike (a Suzi 250 by then) was found in the hedge at the bottom of our garden, I also wondered why it was not torched.. The same immobiliser device is still in use on my 1200 to this day.

      • Security through obscurity does work until it is no longer obscure .... ....If you still had your bike, I could now steal it, If I could be bothered I could break into your machine .... now I know

        The plural of box is boxen....

        • 1) Thankyou, that was the whole point. I do still have a bike, a really expensive one, it still has the little box in it, it is still very effectively protected by obscurity.

          Although obviously I'll be sitting by it all night now armed with a LART waiting for the hoards of Slashdot-reading, identity cracking, angle-grinder and van equipped slashdot criminals to arrive.

          2) [] : you are only allowed to use 'boxen' in a whimsical fashion!

      • I happily stand corrected! Cool examples.

        That said, in the bigger picture, I think better decisions can usually be made with more information. That might include by terrorists, however, so whether or not those "better" decisions are in your interest is debatable, but the less restrictions on open speech the better, in general. IMHO!

    • Security through obscurity = Camouflage

      If it wasn't security, then why dress up in cammo outfits and ghillie suits

      The whole point of camouflage is to hide in plain sight, to be seen without being seen; to appear not as what you are, but as something else. It is the ultimate in "security through obscurity".

      And that is why people never see Sasquatch, he isn't black fur, he is moss covered green, and you can look right at him and never see him. /humor

  • Worrying precedent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:45AM (#29742435)
    It's great when this happens to a big business... But what about when it happens to individuals and victims?

    To use an example. Imagine a celebrity's 13 year old daughter gets raped and there's a court order banning the publication of any information that can identify her. Will she have to deal with so many blogs reporting on it that the court order becomes pointless? Will she then have to live with horrific details of her attack being public knowledge?

    With the Rihanna leaked pictures showing the results of her attack, it's become pretty clear to me that a good portion of the blogging community are devoid of tact and decency. It's only a matter of time before something of the nature of what I described happening.
    • We're talking about parliament here, not a court case. It's accepted that some court cases can be sealed by court order, but parliament?

    • in my opnion, privacy has become an empty word. It's the result of all-pervasive electronics/communication devices. It's rather pointless trying to turn back the clock methinks. the genie is out of the bottle, information wants to be free, that sort of thing.

      • the genie is out of the bottle, information wants to be free, that sort of thing.

        Do you got to rub it the right way
        if you wanna be with it?

    • The distinction is easy to discern. One deals with a matter of public welfare. The other does not.

      To be more precise, when any legal entity engages in activities or behaviors that are damaging or potentially damaging to members of the public, and such actions or the judgment demonstrated by them continue to pose a threat to the welfare of others, then there exists a right to inform and be informed. Those that may be harmed by the acts of another have a right to know of the danger. The revelation of sala

      • by N1AK ( 864906 )
        You missed his point. He wasn't questioning the use of gagging orders, he was pointing out the issue with the 'blogosphere' etc being used to subvert them. We celebrate the justice of the internet when it is used to leak information that shouldn't be hidden, but it can just as easily be used to spread information that we may wish was kept private.
        • Indeed...I agree with that sentiment. I seem to recall a great deal of controversy over "vigilante justice" in the case of a young Korean woman who was photographed for failing to clean up after her dog on the subway, and subsequently humiliated.

        • by jimicus ( 737525 )

          The likelihood of the blogosphere subverting an individual court case (which can be closed to the general public) is much lower than the likelihood of subverting the machinations of parliament (which most certainly are NOT closed to the general public).

    • Face facts here, bud. The publication of the pictures of Rihanna's assault were nothing to do with the lack of tact of the blogging community, but more so that the public seems to see that every single facet of celebrity life is public domain.

      At least the paparazzi didn't get any money out of it.
      • There's a good quote by someone whose name I can never remember but it goes like this: "That which is of interest to the public may not always be of public interest".

        Most people would like to see pics of random hot people in the shower. Despite this demand, it would be an incredibly poor excuse if this was used to justify a photographer putting hidden cameras in people's showers.

        The popularity of porn and the phenomenon of rubbernecking show that people generally have a pretty depraved curiosity. It's
    • by Hozza ( 1073224 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:25AM (#29742607)

      This case is (fortunately) nothing like the examples you give.

      This was about a question in Parliament. i.e. Statements publicly made, by public representatives in a place where freedom of speech is protected to the highest extent in the UK. The statements were available to anyone who looked at the records.

      The idiot lawyers then tried to prevent a newspaper from reprinting those statements, bringing into doubt the entire system of freedom of speech and press in the UK. (note to non-UK readers, there is no UK constitution to protect free speech).

      The bloggers (and more importantly, pretty much every other part of the UK media) were entirely right to repeatedly report on the gross misuse of UK libel law.

      • by mpe ( 36238 )
        The idiot lawyers then tried to prevent a newspaper from reprinting those statements, bringing into doubt the entire system of freedom of speech and press in the UK.

        In the process ignoring the well known that that trying to ban something is a very good way to ensure that lots of people know about it. As well as drawing attention to whoever wanted the information banned.
        Right now probably the last thing Trafigura wants would be more negative publicity. They've not so much "shot themselves in the foot" as "
      • UK Citizens have protection under the European Convention on Human Rights [], which was to some extent enshrined directly into UK law with the Human Rights Act []. This offers freedom of expression as Article 10 [], but this does allow the state to restrict speech "for the protection of the reputation or rights of others".
    • The problem is not the injunction against the Guardian that prevented the Minton report from being published. The problem is that the injunction also prevented the newspaper from revealing that an injunction had been served at all.. This is why, according to the opinion of Trafigura's lawyers, the Guardian could not report on this particular parliamentary question - because it revealed the fact that an injunction was in place.

      Injunctions are a necessary part of the legal system, as you've pointed out. Th

  • by netpixie ( 155816 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:47AM (#29742439) Homepage

    According to the last issue of Private Eye there are quite a few of these super-injunctions currently being enforced (i.e. injunctions that not only stop you from saying something, but stop you from telling anyone that you've been injuncted).

    I'd like a few more of them to be twittered, at least so we know that something's being hidden, even if we don't know what it is.

    (and I know injuncted isn't the right word, but I don't know what is)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:29AM (#29742627)


    • by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:15AM (#29742769)

      The PQ about Trafigura everyone was twittering was Q61, Q62 was in fact the one mentioned in that Private Eye editorial:
      Q62: Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will (a) collect and (b) publish statistics on the number of non-reportable injunctions issued by the High Court in each of the last five years.

      With a bit of luck tomorrow we will hear how many of these things have been issued (or at least, get told when we will be told)

    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      Reminds me of "The Truth" (Pratchett) which I paraphrase here because I don't have the book to hand:

      de Worde: "Can I say that you asked me not to say anything about $SUBJECT?"


      de Worde: "OK, I'll say that when I asked you if I could say anything about about your banning me from discussing $SUBJECT you said No..."

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:52AM (#29742467)
    Twitter had nothing to do with this. Yes there was a lot of inconsequential twittering about this, but the reason the injunction was lifted was that reputable newspapers outside the UK were carrying the story. Since they were immune from the injunction - and their content was available in Britain, the injunction became pointless and (just like with the Spycatcher book, which was banned in Britain, but freely available in other english-speaking countries, or terrorist plots which were censored in the UK but freely reported by the NYT) were not serving the purpose of stopping british peopole from finding out the truth.

    British libel laws are a travesty. To the point where half a dozen US states, including California, have had to pass laws preventing UK libel judgements from inhibiting free speech. There is even a case at present where a Ukranian website is defending statements it made in Ukranian regarding a Ukranian company, but in a British court - as the penalties handed down in British courts are so heavy, and litigation costs so high, that it's financial ruin for a defendant to attempt to defend themselves, even if they are successful.

    So much for free speech in Britain.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Elky Elk ( 1179921 )

      British =! English

    • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:24AM (#29742599)

      There is even a case at present where a Ukranian website is defending statements it made in Ukranian regarding a Ukranian company, but in a British court...

      Where were the comments posted? This isn't clear from your post.

      If they were posted on an English website, hosted in England, how is this any different than the US wanting to charge Gary McKinnon in a US court? Seems like we're both as bad as each other...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by smoker2 ( 750216 )
        Not to mention the DHS tactics of forcing an isp to take down a website then making it plain that the isp cannot reveal the reason for doing so to anybody on pain of $nasty_things. But you lot keep banging on about how bad the UK is ...
        • Newsflash: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sean.peters ( 568334 )

          But you lot keep banging on about how bad the UK is ...

          This seems to be a hard concept for some people, but here's an attempt to explain: because he thinks the situation in the UK is bad does not necessarily mean he thinks the situation in the US is wonderful. In other words, they're both bad.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        There is even a case at present where a Ukranian website is defending statements it made in Ukranian regarding a Ukranian company, but in a British court...

        Where were the comments posted? This isn't clear from your post. If they were posted on an English website, hosted in England, how is this any different than the US wanting to charge Gary McKinnon in a US court? Seems like we're both as bad as each other...

        This is a case raised by a lawyer as an example on Newsnight, BB2. Video of this available here. []

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, an injuction against one paper is as good as an injuction against all in the UK. From

      "No injunction was served on the BBC, but ever since the Spycatcher case in the 1980s news organisations which knowingly breach an injunction served on others are in contempt of court, so the corporation too felt bound by the Guardian injunction."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlnation ( 858981 )
      That's absolutely right. Twitter had nothing of consequence to do this whatsoever. This article is just Twitter's insidious marketing dept trying to cash in (again).

      The Guardian newspaper actually tried to create the Streisand Effect here. They got a tame MP to table a question in Parliament to expose what was happening. They effectively challenged the libel lawyers to try and stop the reporting of it. And of course the lawyers fell for it. Pretty neat stitch up.

      The Guardian then leaked it to the inte
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bazzargh ( 39195 )

        The Guardian then leaked it to the international press and prominent bloggers -- such as Guido Fawkes. Sure people reported it on Twitter too, especially Stephen Fry who is a sock puppet for the Guardian and the left wing, but it wasn't the tweets that changed anything, it was the International press and the reaction in Parliament.

        How's your tin foil hat looking? There was absolutely no need for them to leak anything. The list of questions was already published, the Guardian just asked Carter-Ruck if they c

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The Guardian played it cute and used Twitter to do so.

        Do you rely on Guido's band of libertarian wonks and hope people stumble upon it on Google - or do you appeal directly to (say) Stephen Fry' 830,000 followers (plus practically every working hack and writer who usually use Twitter as a way to banter away the working day)?

        It is about distribution, not just publication. The story went from standstill to game-set-match in about 4 hours and that was the Twitter effect. Nowhere near enough people read Guid

    • I like how a recent Sheldon comic [] described British libel laws:

      Sheldon: "British libel laws are the worst! A fat-head can sue you for callin' him a fat-head, even when it's demonstrable in court that he's a total and complete fat-head... even to OTHER fat-heads!"

      Arthur: "What? No way. Then how do they call out fat-heads in Britain?"

      Sheldon: "The nation suffers in silence."

  • Full Report (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThoughtMonster ( 1602047 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:56AM (#29742481) Homepage
    The full report is also up on wikileaks, along with some background info. []
  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:02AM (#29742515) Homepage
    Great! Another victory for democracy, I mean twitter (is there really any difference these days?) Twitter users must be feeling especially proud today to be a part of something really special. I mean, how often do you get to say you're a user on a system of millions, and someone else uses that system to accomplish something? It's like back a few months ago, when twitter helped to overthrow the Iranian government. They were powerless to resist the constant flow of encouragement and support - at one point, a prominent blogger changed his web page to green in support of the protesters, an event widely cited as the tipping point in the revolution. Even now, revolutionary courts are handing down death sentences to the enemies of the people.
  • by GammaStream ( 1472247 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:07AM (#29742541)
    Hopefully this will motivate the courts and Parliament to do something about the problem of people coming to our country and using our courts to solve their petty grievances due to our ridiculous libel laws. The wikipedia article on libel tourism [] is particularly good in this regard. A lawyer on Newsnight (available on iplayer) last night listed the example of a Ukrainian business man who was suing a Ukrainian website for libel in the British courts under the justification that there happened to be some people in the UK who can read Ukrainian. This sort of stuff has simply got to stop. To help, sign the petition on the the no.10 website [] and the website 38 degrees [] is also running a campaign.
  • He/she needs to be introduced to the 1689 Bill Of Rights and it's provision for the free reporting of Parliament. I've looked around, but no one appears to be mentioning the judge by name.
  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:39AM (#29742671) Homepage
    Twitter nothing. This morning they were threatened with being held in contempt of Parliament. That's when it dropped.

  • by evilandi ( 2800 ) <> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:14AM (#29742765) Homepage

    The Slashdot headline "restore" is wrong. England and Wales [] have never had freedom of speech. It cannot be "restored", it was never there.

    We English and Welshmen value correctness above freedom. Now I'll readily admit that sometimes - often, perhaps - megacorporates and in particular the law firm Carter Fuck [] try to abuse the system so that they also prevent inconvenient truths from slipping out.

    But would I want to live in a country where people can spread lies about each other with no legal redress? No. The problems with freedom of speech go way beyond shouting "Fire!" in a crowded cinema. England and Wales have always regarded responsibilities above freedoms; in this case, the responsibility to get the facts right.

    The US gets many things right, and a few things wrong. The USA's bonkers bible-belt religious fundamentalism, for instance, would never be tolerated in England and Wales, as most of it is demonstrably factually incorrect. England and Wales would never suffer from a Kansas-style education system which promoted creationism over science. So, whilst I respect your country's achievements, please don't try to sell me "freedom of speech" as a cure-all. It's no more a cure-all than the snake oil which I understand your forefathers were so keen on selling in the days of your Wild West.

    • by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @08:06AM (#29743037)

      We English and Welshmen value correctness above freedom.

      Who's correctness? Who's values? Therein lies the rub.

      A system that is fully open always will have issues with 'wrong' theories. But it protects the good ones too. I honestly feel what your saying and good peer review is key. But your idea that openness is a bad thing is flawed.

      • by evilandi ( 2800 )

        Whose correctness? That which can be deduced by repeatable scientific experiment, or subject to the rigours of proof beyond doubt in a court of law.

        Openness isn't usually a bad thing, but the propagation of falsehoods and unproven nonsense is most definitely a bad thing.

        Us Englishmen kicked out the Pope [] more than four hundred years ago, partially I'll admit because our King fancied a new shag, but mostly because our scholars were fed up of the Catholic church insisting upon demonstrably false populist nonse []

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      a) I second Yoshi_mon's comment

      b) It amuses me that you left the Scots out of your idea of "we". I approve.

      c) Our system (usually) allows a reasonable person to see that the emperor is not wearing any clothes, then treat the poor fool appropriately without being sued into oblivion.

      d) As to the merits of free speech, we aren't going to stop someone from playing the fool (and deprive ourselves of a potential source of entertainment), like those bible-belters that you mention. I'd sooner boot the circus out

      • by mike2R ( 721965 )

        b) It amuses me that you left the Scots out of your idea of "we". I approve.

        Presumably because Scottish law is separate from English law, something most Scots, in my experience, seem very aware of :)

    • The Slashdot headline "restore" is wrong. England and Wales [] have never had freedom of speech. It cannot be "restored", it was never there.

      Indeed. Any judge is still allowed to prevent the media from reporting on Parliament. (Trafigura's lawyers dropped the gag request). There is still no freedom.

    • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @09:17AM (#29743545) Homepage

      The problem with "freedom of correctness" is how many so-called "correct" things later turn out to be incredible lies. Correctness requires someone who can objectively judge whether something is correct, and pretty much the entire history of the world is a repeated, blatant demonstration that nobody really knows what is objectively "correct" or not until - at best - a few decades down the road.

      • by evilandi ( 2800 )

        Quite. The key word being "judge". I'd trust the judicial process to be more correct than whatever rises to the top of the popularity list of a social network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by swb ( 14022 )

      Look, we had a dustup over this in the late 18th century. A few of us got together and decided, among other things, that were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We wanted to be CITIZENS, not SUBJECTS.

      The British didn't believe in this. They believed in something else, some lesser form of liberty restricted by their aristocracy and parliament.

      It's just refreshing to see a British subject admit to it.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      The problem with your post is that I find it incorrect. I also find it amusing that you somehow think it is better for the courts to decide what is "correct" (assuming correctness is even a consideration for the courts which doesn't appear to be the case) than not. And please continue complaining about US "snake oil" even though the company involved in suppressing media reports, Trafigura apparently is peddling its own brand of snake oil and using the courts in an "incorrect" way.

      I must admit to being a
  • by vorlich ( 972710 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @08:58AM (#29743355) Homepage Journal
    This is a story about the law as it applies in England and Wales. Scotland [] (that famous non-sovereign state -slashdot anon) has an entirely separate and distinctly different, Roman based system of law and no real equivalent of the infamous Carter Ruck (billed as a "British Law Firm" whatever that is) and subsequently no really litigious use of libel laws on the magnitude of those in England.
    Scottish Judges are renowned for making anyone guilty of contempt spend at least one night in the cells - famous editors and briefs included. Much to the amusement to the mainly retired and unemployed audience in the public gallery.
  • see here []

    October 12, 2009 Summary

    Revealing correspondence between the UK commodities giant Trafigura and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation over Minton report: Trafigura toxic dumping along the Ivory Coast broke EU regulations, 14 Sep 2006.

    Other than the toxic dumping issue and a surrounding criminal case, the correspondence mentions details of a gag order obtained against the UK press, specifically the Guardian:

    Your questions of today do also reveal the fact that you are in possession of a dra

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982