Why isn’t Lord McAlpine suing Twitter?

20 November 2012

11:53 AM

20 November 2012

11:53 AM

I understand entirely why Lord McAlpine would wish to sue individuals such as George Monbiot for having wrongly tweeted, or re-tweeted, his name in regard to allegations of child sex abuse. Life is too short and we need to find pleasure where we can, and the whole country has indeed enjoyed watching the Moonbat squirm.

But why is he not suing Twitter itself? It is not Philip Schofield who the peer is suing, but ITV. Surely, likewise, Twitter needs to take some responsibility for its output? If, unlike broadcasters, it has no legal responsibility for what is put out through its witless conduit, then surely there is less of a responsibility on the people who use it, too?

Incidentally, I’m out of the country for a couple of weeks and will be blogging sparsely, for which apologies.

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Show comments
  • Colbey

    The same reason that newspaper stockists aren’t sued by what is in their shop; Innocent Dissemination. This is covered in the Defamation Act 1996 ( Although there is an argument to be made over whether Twitter is a Publisher or a Distributor.

  • paul

    I don’t know about this McAlpine. No smoke without fire if you ask me.

  • Fred Blogs

    Difficult one. If someone slanders me over the telephone, do I sue BT? If someone libels me in a Gmail, do I sue Google? Is Twitter a publisher or a medium?

  • Do_The_Math

    Lord McAlpine is the author of:

    The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business,

    The Ruthless Leader: Three Classics of Strategy and Power, &

    The Servant.

    Children in Need is a BBC Run Charity. What will be the funding
    allocation to the salaries of the Board of Trustees, including the
    current BBC Director General?

  • LieselH

    My question is why did he never sue Scallywag magazine in the 90’s, they started this ball rolling. McAlpine says he never bothered because they went bankrupt?? I am sorry but if a magazine said they had proof and were prepared to go to court and prove it, I would take them to court for slander and liable IF I knew their article was a total fabrication and slur on my good name. Monetary compensation would be irrelevant, clearing my name would be paramount. McAlpine never did this, that is what I find strange and now 20 years later the same sorry story has come to light but now to the masses with the aid of Twitter. Or maybe he was just waiting for the ‘Where there’s a blame, there’s a claim’ culture to reap in the compo from the BBC and ITV who both never named him. Maybe Schofield had a blank card, but somehow McAlpine KNEW he had found his name along with five others on the internet but maybe he hadn’t, unless McAlpine had seen the card that Cameron was handed as that is the only way he would know IF his name was found by Schofield, maybe it was just the other five. Anyway why have the five others not started suing all and sundry if they too knew their names were on the card, clearly all have telepathy because famous or not, Tory or not I now my name would never be found on any online site claiming I was a child abuser. Why are these names flowing around the internet anyway, obviously all ‘lies’ BUT if anyone’s name has been pulled out of a hat just for slander purposes why not Cameron or Obsourne or Clegg anyone could be named but they are not are they. Strangely it’s the same six to eight men all the time. Clearly some people have got it in for a bunch of ex Tory MP’s/aides from 20 years ago, some know how to hold a grudge after all this time clearly.

    • William Reid Boyd

      The thing about David Icke and aficionados of his paedo dinosaur conspiracy theory, or WTF it is he keep banging on about, is that they’re bonkers, to put it in simple terms even slightly touched twitterati can understand.

      And by and large civil courts don’t award damages against nutters. What is worse if you do go after them or their publishers, you give them a legitimate public platform on which to to air their delusions.

      I think Lord McAlpine probabably quite rightly judged at the time it wasn’t worth it, but 10 years later, with the advent of Twitter and Facebooks, things have changed.

      • LieselH

        Actually the nutter David Icke never started the ball rolling, he just kept it going along with many others. The article was by Angus Wilson (who died in a car crash aged 31) and came about from investigations by the Observer, Private Eye, HTV and Independent on Sunday who were all under threat of libel of North Wales ex-Supt Angelsea at the time. That name rings a bell. As to your claim ‘Lord McAlpine probably quite rightly judged at the time it wasn’t worth it’ wasn’t worth clearing your name from the most heinous crime ever of being named as a child abuser?? Crikey, yes I would let that one wash over me and let lie, everyone thinking I was a pervert for the past 20 years. Then again considering that the Jillings report was pulped, 14 of the young men that claimed to have been abused and gave evidence are now dead, the magazine editor that published the allegations is dead and the whisteblower Malcolm King who exposed the Welsh Children Homebuse scandal in the mid 1980’s and who was one of 12 who received a copy of The Jillings reportedly cheated death two weeks ago after a car crash which resulted in a broken leg after the break pedal was unattached. Just think in a couple of years there will be no-one left to remember Bryn Estyn and the allegations made. As to Mr King Police are investigating to see if sabotage was involved but I am sure their investigation will come back that it was just general wear and tear of the car that caused the problem. Fact is there are though too many D-Notices issued for my liking in a supposedly democratic country where we apparently have free speech. What I do know is that it’s a bit like a scab, the majority let the scab heal until it falls off to prevent further problems but others just want to pick at it as you never knew what’s underneath and it seems there is a festering cesspit under all of this and to many unanswered questions. My main one would be is Lord McAlpine any intentions of prosecuting the police for apparently showing his photo to the victim and claiming it to be the good Lord himself. No thought not.

        • William Reid Boyd

          Well, I didn’t know about Angus Wilson and the press interest at the time. I do know about David Icke banging on about it and I’m not impressed. As someone wittily observed in a Daily Telegraph forum recently, he’s so unhinged he thinks the hinge itself is part of the conspiracy.

          A copy of the Jillings report has been found in an archive. Presumably FOI requests will uncover anything of interest that was suppressed.

          One thing worth stressing is that the BBC Newsnight libel lay, as they themselves made clear in their apology, in the suggestion there had been a cover-up. It wasn’t really about identifying Lord McAlpine as an individual about whom an allegation had been made, which was already surely known to all of Lord McAlpine’s associates and friends, to all at Westminster and journalism, indeed to you and me.

          While we can all now name Lord McAlpine freely, we can’t attempt to shame him. I don’t think your efforts to suggest there was indeed a cover-up can be very sensible at this hugely litigious moment in Twitter space-time. You might care to be a little cautious here, Liesel :).

          • LieselH

            No suggestion of a coverup has been made, there was a Jillings report and an order was made to have it pulped (fact). The 14 ‘victims’ who gave evidence at Waterhouse are dead (fact) the editor of Scallywag who published the original article on investigations from various press is dead (fact) and the whistleblower who originally exposed the abuse and received one of the 12 copies of the report was in a car crash 2 weeks ago with an apparently faulty brakes (fact). No-one is attempting to shame anyone just that if I was Lord McAlpine I’d be more interested to know why the police implicated me by showing a photo to the victim and putting my name to it (fact). Another expose of police corruption would go down a storm with the public but it seems financial compensation is clearly more important than exposing the police who have gone out of their way to falsely implicate him. I think it is a reasonable question to ask why was as much effort, as is being made today, not made 20 years ago when these false allegations first surfaced. As whether there was one subscriber to the magazine or 10,000, with such false allegations of a heinous nature being circulated I would prove without a shadow of a doubt that I could not have been involved. Maybe that is just me, rather die with a clean slate and penniless that leave rumours to circulate with a tidy bank balance. After all John Major successfully sued the said magazine in 1993 regarding their allegations of him and Edwina Currie (fact) so a ‘successful’ outcome was possible.

            • William Reid Boyd

              I didn’t watch the Newsnight report very attentively since it was obviously a non-story with nothing new in it. I did get the impression it was implying a cover-up. I looked at its apology again and that refers to ‘criticism’ of the enquiry.

              The Jillings report was pulped because it was feared that it might make the councils involved liable to compensation claims However it’s not lost and copies still exist It’s plain there was indeed a cover-up there, but there’s no suggestion that was anything to do with the two allegations involving the McAlpine enquiry that were investigated by the Waterhouse enquiry that went on to exonerate the family.

              What I started with here, in response to your various insinuations, was simply that it’s not always wise to go after people defaming you and give them a public platform, .

              Last here from me. Thank you.

              • Mr Tibbs

                Unbelievable. They wanted the report to be ‘pulped in case of Insurance liability’. Your tone suggests that’s a fair reason. Wow. I admire your galant defence. However, why would you want to defend this when it has already been made clear by Cameron that there were serious failings in both reports? What is your problem with un-earthing the truth? Why would anybody not want to get this sorted out once and for all? What I also found interesting is when I posted similar open questions to get the truth out there, numerous newspaper message boards pre-mod’s refused to post them. Funny that. There must be a lot of people who obviously don’t like people asking or repeating Cameron’s request for a wider scope inquiry.

                • William Reid Boyd

                  No, I don’t think it was a fair reason.It’s shameful that the councils involved were trying to avoid compensation claims in this way. But I do think that was the whole reason and don’t feel the need to erect a conspiracy theory around it, still less that it had anything to do with Lord McAlpine.

                  Regarding the Waterhouse report, there was criticism at the time that its remit was too narrow. It found evidence of a paedophile ring, but no evidence that it included public figures. It banned the naming of some 28 individuals alleged to have been abusers. It exonerated the McAlpine family.

                  David Cameron ordered an enquiry into whether these enquiries were properly constituted and did their jobs. Following Steve Messham’s retraction, it’s a question whether this enquiry needs to go forward.

                  Last from me.

                • Mr Tibbs


                  Needs to go forward? I think so. Hopefully with an independent police force investigating it, we will find out the whole truth which for some reason, you want to avoid. Tick tock.

                • William Reid Boyd

                  The link refers to new allegations about historic abuse allegations, not about the judicial enquiry ordered by David Cameron. They’re being investigated by the office of the Children’s Commisioner for Wales, set up as a result of a recommendation by the Waterhouse report, and not by an independent police force.

                  Fap slap.

                • Mr Tibbs

                  Whatever, you say. i’m sure both inquiries will overlap somewhat considering what brought the whole affair to the public attention.

                  By the way, I quote from the BBC article that quoted the four Welsh MP’s request to the Children’s Commissioner: .

                  “In view of the allegations made locally that North Wales Police were at the time complicit in a “cover-up”, we do not believe that it would be appropriate for the force to undertake a review of the evidence.”

                  Your defence is based on the ‘fogging’ of the issues. Classic tactics to try and defeat an opponent as your argument to not bother having an new inquiry is very weak, considering the information presented to you. People burying the evidence and ignoring witnesses is how Savile and Cyril Smith allegedly got away with things for years. If you want to support that environment of secrecy, I cannot engage with you any more. I will never understand that stance.

                  Last from me.

  • Hmm

    No. Just… no. This is stupid. That isn’t how the internet works. This is like suing a shop for not removing graffiti on it’s brick wall that is defamatory to somebody. Shops can’t waste money on such petty things. With the size of twitter being amplified past this, it makes it even more clear that nobody at twitter is going to sit down and decide whether something is true or false.

    That completely kills freedom of speech, if people want to speculate or give opinions on a topic, leave them too it. Do your own research.

  • anyfool

    Whatever the legal niceties about suing Twitter i hope he takes Monbiot, Bercow and all the other celebs to the cleaners just for their unbelievable sanctimony, pity there is no stocks or Debtors prison if they cannot pay.

    • Mr Tibbs

      If it goes to court maybe the naughty twitters can call for the publishing of the Jillings report. Apparently its publishing has been demanded by Ann Clwyd

      Who wouldn’t want that? I don’t understand why it never was in the first place. Maybe this whole mess could have been avoided. The Waterhouse report into the abuse at the care homes has also had wide spread criticism due to its lack of scope. Can’t any government manage an open inquiry for the future benefit of under privileged children in state care? That is the scandal.

  • Mr Tibbs

    Quote taken from “The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business” 1999 by Lord McAlpine

    Lord McAlpine’s views on dealing with the media:

    “Another option is for the businessperson to learn the art of dealing with the media, using all the tricks that go with that trade – such as the false defeat: when a person seems to lose, in order to gain public sympathy, or the false triumph: where a person seems to win in order to appear strong – thus giving credibility to any number of dubious propositions that person may wish to make in the future. Neither of these ploys are examples of the use of true facts, rather of false facts given to the media to chew on, much as a dog chews on a bone. Another useful ploy is the false accusation. First, create a situation where you are wrongly accused. Then, at a convenient moment, arrange for the false accusation to be shown to be false beyond all doubt. Those who have made accusations against both the company and its management become discredited. Further accusations will then be treated with great suspicion. Always remember that people’s memories are very frail, remembering only both the high spots and the lows of a person’s career, and then seldom remembering accurately. People believe in the facts that it suits them to believe.” p176.

    • William Reid Boyd

      Well, this has been seized upon by the Ickeians. I think it’s grossly unfair because public relations after all was Lord McAlpine’s business,

      Unless you’re actually implying it was a heist all along, in which case I say more power to his elbow :).That would be so fantastically delicious :).

      • Mr Tibbs

        I’m not implying anything. I let his own words speak for themselves. I thought it gives insight to The Lord – an insight he wished to share in his very own book. This was in the Sydney Herald. If the internet is used properly, it’s amazing what you can learn. I personally appreciated the insight given by Lord A. I wouldn’t have thought it was the same guy we saw on our screens speaking about the ‘shock and feeling in his bones’. I wanted him to sue the BBC and get all the details on the table. I think Machiavellian principles conflict with the softly softly approach to the beeb – but on the flip side, The Lord has definitely won hearts and minds of a lot of people and turned the press into gibbering nervous wrecks too afraid to speak out. This case has done the biggest amount of damage to our ‘free’ press, I can recall. It’s proving to be a massive gagging order. What a fantastic result for some.

        • William Reid Boyd

          Well, I rather agree with this and also a previous comment you make that it’s in itself scandalous we don’t seem to have managed yet to hold a satisfactorily open enquiry into the North Wales children’s homes abuse scandal.

          But it’s also true that David Icke has seized on that Sydney Herald interview to further reptilianize Lord McAlpine and I think that’s unfair.

          I’m sure we need that new law on defamation that’s before parliament

          • Mr Tibbs

            Sponsored by Kenneth Clark? Didn’t The Express print accusations about him in October? I googled Ben Fellows. I hope he can go to court to and clear this up, too. The law proposed seems to rely on ‘opinion’. Now that would be a disaster. There is nothing wrong with the present law. If you are falsely accused you can have your day in court and win the case and clear your name. Gagging the press and Internet is killing the basic freedoms of speech. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.

            • William Reid Boyd

              In this post you defame Ken Clarke. His proposed bill would offer you a defence in law, whereas presently you have none.

              Really done here. Feel free to continue the debate on my Twitter account @WilliamBoyd256, but I think it’s only fair to warn you that I hold a very senior position in the Welsh Secret Service and I’m ruthless …

              • Mr Tibbs

                I don’t defame anybody. I question the purpose of the law. For a senior man in the Welsh Secret Service, you’re not very discreet. Ahh, you’ve only got 6 followers on Twitter so I can see you are keeping your thoughts pretty secret. I also see you’re from North Wales – maybe you should lobby your MP with your ‘ influence’ and ask them to shelve the new inquiry. Be ruthless in your work and sweep it all under the carpet.

                Right, I have a real job to go to. Have a nice day, Welsh James Bond.

                • William Reid Boyd

                  🙂 And you Mt. T.

  • Noa

    An old fashioned comparison of the protections afforded to Abu Qatada but unavailable in the cases of Sergeant Nightingale and Tommy Robinson might better serve the cause of democracy and the preservation of liberty.

    The courts can decide whether Twitter is a promulgator or merely a carrier of libels; like a rat with Weil’s disease.

  • Loverat

    It will be interesting to see how far his lawyer goes with this. Far from being a ‘test case’ there has been at least one involving numerous multiple libel defendants (not on Twitter though) The judges remarks in that case on over compensation, defamation pre-action protocol failures as well as unfairly taking advantage of unrepresented defendants (or pressurising them) was quite interesting. The longer this goes on and the wider the net cast, the more likely the cases will completely unravel. Question is – does his brief realise the dangers of suing so many – particularly individuals?. The public are very likely to lose sympathy the longer this plays out and the regulator may well be watching Mr Reid.

  • Baron

    Laurence has the answer for you, Twitter is just a platform, a conduit, you cannot sue it any more than you can sue a newspaper per se. What he could do is to sue the guy or guys who run Twitter, maintain the Twitter servers, or own the intellectual property.

    He may be wise not to, the Americans can be bastards when it comes to foreigners invading their turf, just look what they are doing to BP, the ultimate damage the gushing oil did will be most likely not bigger than that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez tragedy (250,000 seabirds killed, roughly the number cats here kill every two days), but the messiah is determined to either destroy BP, or weaken it so that it can be taken over by one of the American majors.

    • FrankS

      People can and do sue newspapers.

      • Baron

        FrankS, you’re right, apologies, there’s no way the ignorant Baron can wriggle out of this blatant mistake. he’ll keep his mouth shut then.

  • privacy_matters

    Lord McAlpine is the author of:

    The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business,
    The Ruthless Leader: Three Classics of Strategy and Power, &
    The Servant.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Why doesn’t he offer Loonbat and Berkcow a deal. Sue them or put them in a cage in Trafalgar Sq where we can throw stuff at them. He gets redress, those 2 ***** save some cash and the general gaiety of the nation is vastly improved. A win win win situation.

    Worth a cheap day return of anybody’s money.

    • jemspilsbury

      I`d walk, from Warwickshire.

    • Noa

      Oh, I don’t see why the pair of ’em could be put in a tumbrel and transported from town to town for a daily session in the stocks.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Good idea – like that interminable Olympic Torch Tour? – the cart could be hauled by ex-Newsnight journos.

    • Woodstockwastrel

      what is Twitter?

  • William Reid Boyd

    Well, one good reason might be that Twitter would defend the suit …

    I should be much more interested to know why he apparently isn’t suing Jemima Khan, the daughter of his late good friend James Goldsmith who (along with Tom Watson) retweeted Iain Overton’s massively defamatory “If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile” tweet that was retweeted by more than 1500 retweeters to at least 500,000 followers (of which 200,000+ were Jemima’s) on the same day before the programme had even aired. Khan and Overton had recently been judges together at Amnesty International’s 2012 Media Awards. I just don’t believe she didn’t know Overton was going after her kindly Uncle Mac, which makes her retweet even more extraordinary – she’s deleted it incidentally for some reason (*surprised face*)

    George Monbiot and Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) also retweeted Overton. I did wonder why Monbiot was so gripped by his relatively minor transgressions in naming him after the programme. Well now we know, he identified him before the programme (the big one, though as I say Mac’s lawyers are strangely quiet on that).

    • rod liddle

      That Twitter would defend the suit is, I think, the right answer. The points made by Alex Massie are, as is often the case, an irrelevance.
      Twitter and facebook are very difficult to sue; so too Wiki and Google. This is partly a consequence of their size and partly a question of where they are domiciled. Britain is litigant friendly.

      • Peter Brown

        Two months late, I have discovered this interesting correspondence, sparked, I suspect, by a letter I wrote to the Sunday Times two days before Rod Liddle posted his Spectator comment, and essentially asking the same thing: why can’t Twitter be sued? I’m grateful to him for keeping this one going. I’d like to chuck a few points into the mix. First, if you join Twitter you sign away all your rights of redress. A test case in Australia was brought by someone who deliberately had not joined, for that reason. Second, Twitter makes a lot of money, largely through sponsored tweets – it will probably go public next year – and unlike newspapers or broadcasters, which pay salaries to content providers, it can afford to invest millions in its sales teams. Its ownership is unclear and it is based in an American tax haven. Third, I believe it is not a distributor, the equivalent of some fly-postered wall or a telephone company, but a publisher. If you make a defamatory telephone call to one person, you can’t be sued. Twitter’s unique selling point is its amplification – the retweet. Because of this some users now reach more people than the average British broadsheet. Perhaps the answer here is for the law to specify a minimum number of retweets – a point in which, at least in the UK, Twitter could be liable for its content. After all, night lawyers monitor the output of newspapers; most of it is harmless, but they still read it. A big problem with all this is who will bell the cat? After all, virtually everyone in Parliament is a tweeter now. Yes, it would be unpopular, but it would help to level the media playing field.

  • three ducks redux

    more pertinently, if you put “newsnight paedophile” into twitter’s searchbar that day, its predictive algorithms threw up his name before you’d finished typing. how is that not publishing a libel?

    • three ducks redux

      also, twitter’s trending and predictive search algorithms are essentially automated mechanisms that blindly put together words unvetted and regardless of their propositional content. how does this not meet the definition of “reckless disregard” in defamation?

  • Madame Merle

    Because it’s much more fun to see Silly BerCow with egg on her face.

  • heliogabal

    What an exceedingly stupid post. Does he just sit down and write anything that comes into his mind? Without any information, research, legal knowledge etc. ? Just slops it in and out with it?

    • William Reid Boyd

      Not at all. It’s a good question. Armchair law arsing on is one of my more unattractive know all faults, but I think it’s fair to say that in English law, which is presumably the jurisdiction that applies however much Twitter might resist it, Twiiter are indeed liable. After all The Spectator would be, why not Twitter?

  • Laurence

    Rod, is it not simply the case that he is suing ITV because they are Schofield’s employers? Twitter does not employ its users ergo he will not sue Twitter.

    Going anywhere nice?

  • aristeides

    The most obvious reason why Lord McAlpine has not sued Twitter is that he does not feel that Twitter has wronged him. Contrary to the disgusting suggestion that he is “greedy” (seriously, how much more will this blameless individual have to bear?), he is availing himself of the appropriate redress in law to right an extremely serious wrong.

    • William Reid Boyd

      Well, I don’t think so. He has said wants to end “trial by Twitter”.

      No doubt part of that means he wants to educate the twitterati (those who still need educating) that you can’t say what you like on Twitter, but it also implies surely that he blames Twitter itelf as well. I’m sure his legal advisers will have pointed out to him that Twitter are liable.

      When Iain Overton tweeted on the morning of 2nd November “If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile” , he might have well have tweeted “If all goes well we’ve got a Newsnight out tonight about an establishment cover-up of Lord McAlpine who is a paedophile” as far as Lord McAlpine’s associates and a great many other people in Westminster and journalism were concerned. It was clearly grossly defamatory of Lord McAlpine because he was readily identifiable to those in the know. This is the test in case law (I can’t be bothered to look it up, perhaps someone else can cite it), that the plaintiff’s associates will have recognised him.

      In particular Tom Watson will have recognised him. After all he had used parliamentary privilege just a few days before to raise a question about a paedophile at the heart of Downing Street in an earlier administration and, ever helpful, had made it clear in his blog it wasn’t another safely deceased politician whose name the literati and twitterati were also bandying around at the time. Nevertheless he thought it alright to retweet Overton’s tweet to 100,000 of his followers the same day.

      Ditto Paul Staines (in the business of parliamentary rumour) and Jemima Khan (family) who retweeted it to 85,000 and 220,000 respectively of their followers, of which Jemima Khan’s ought to have been the most damaging as she of all these was presumably best placed to judge what credibility this allegaton could be made of Lord McAlpine, one of her father’s closest intimates.

      Yet all we hear people banging on about are MoonBat’s and Silly Sal’s tweets in the inevitable feeding frenzy that broke out after the BBC basically said, “we’re not going name him (‘cos we’re not stupid you know) but it was all gone into by the Waterhouse enquiry which would be a good place to start sifting through the dirt if you’re interested”.

      I do find it singularly odd that no-one seems to be getting very worked up about Overton, Watson, Staines and Khan.

      However I’ve probably exhausted the patience of the forum. Thanks to all for putting up with me here, and I’ll cease and desist now.

      • William Reid Boyd

        A parting thought. This is Lord McAlpine named directly in Guido Fawkes 2nd November blog disseminating Overton’s “senior political figure” tweet (archived

        So are we going to see Staines sued?

      • Jemima Khan

        I Rt’d that tweet of Iain Overton’s about the imminent naming and shaming of a former politician on Newsnight without knowing who he was referring to. Genuinely. I only heard rumours about the identity of the person later. Besides, RTs aren’t endorsements. I RT if I think something is of note or of interest (eg: the v topical public interest v privacy debate) And the fact that Newsnight was choosing to go ahead with that story, wrongly as it turned out, was of note, imo

        • William Reid Boyd

          Well, of course I accept that.

          Interested to hear your views on RTs. It looks as if I’m going to have make a donation to Lord MacAlpine’s charity because of my retweet of Sally Bercow and of course I have no objection to that in the circumstances. But based on present news reports, it seems that RTs with more than 500 followers might need to defend an action. What would be your position on that?

  • CmdKeen

    McAlpine said he went for less from the BBC because he was aware it was coming from the taxpayers, whereas ITV is a commercial organisation.
    Suing Twitter would be a brilliant way of bringing the whole internet down on his head. ITV can, do and have a duty to monitor what they broadcast, there are editors, producers etc. Twitter don’t and there isn’t an expectation of them doing so. It’s like saying BT could be sued because someone put a poster on their telephone pole…

  • LB

    And the phone companies, they are responsible for slander, crimes arranged using mobiles …

  • Biggestaspidistra

    I don’t understand why the BBC only got sued for £185000 and he went after ITN for £500,000. I know we pay for it but still, it seems lopsided.

    • Faringdon

      Because he is greedy? Because he thinks he can? Because he doesn’t think that ITV will call his bluff and take it to court where more things might come out into the public domain?

    • Noa

      It was stated that he was aware a BBC settlement utilised licence payers’ money. Obviously that is not the position with ITV.

  • Faringdon

    Presumably he’s not suing Twitter because in the States the burden of proof would rest with him. Libel Law in the UK is to protect the rich and powerful, in the States its to protect free speech.

    • June

      USA – a land of free speech! Don’t make me laugh. Go tell that to a political prisoner Nakoula Basseley Nakoula jailed without so much as an appeal.

    • Peter Jackson

      I don’t think Lord MacAlpine will find proving that someone calling him a paedophile iwas likely to bring him into hatred, ridicule or contempt is a big ask

  • FrankS

    The myth that the the internet is somehow immune to the laws of libel etc that apply to the press, radio and TV, has at last been exploded.
    Question is, is the role of Twitter the digital parallel of the Royal Mail or of the press?
    The laws against libel in the press don’t just apply to writers, editors or publishers – printers, distributors and retailers (paper boy too, possibly) can all have their collars felt.

    Maybe the “freedom” to libel online is about to be curbed.

  • thisisGilb

    Sorry Rod, this makes no sense. It’s a portal for communications. It can’t vet every tweet, in the same way a telephone company can’t with every phone call…

    • Mr Grumpy

      They could vet every tweet. The phone company isn’t allowed to eavesdrop on your calls, but there’s no such thing as a private tweet. What you mean is that they couldn’t do it and still have a viable business model. The question is whether that is legally Lord M’s problem or Twitter’s.

      • sir_graphus

        I believe there was a very early test case, about a dozen years ago; are the likes of Twitter the equivalent of the publisher, in which case they can be sued, or the paper manufacturer, who would not be.
        The chatrooms, as they were then, argued that the whole internet wouldn’t work (i.e. no viable business model) if they were deemed to be publsher rather than space provider. A pretty weak argument in my view, but nonetheless, it carried the day. I can think of any number of business ideas that will make me a millionaire provided I’m not held accountable for any bad that might result.

        • FrenchNewsonlin

          These are the arguments of those who by suing the messenger seek to curb free speech and freedom of expression.The responsibility for any libels committed fall on the shoulders of those expressing them. A telephone company is not sued because two people libel a third party in a fax transmission over its wires. It is time to call a halt to the ever-increasing authoritarianism of the sue Twitter brigade and defend democracy.

      • thisisGilb

        They couldn’t vet every tweet, literally impossible. Especially as it would need to be done by a human, reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

  • Gareth Jones

    that would be like suing the internet