Tuesday, 13 October 2009

It took 16 hours . . .

Last night's post took me until 5 a.m. Being unemployed I slept decidedly late today, and it was all over by the time I logged on. We were right all along that it was Carter-Ruck trying to stifle Britain's democracy to protect their clients - and incredibly, just our tweets and our blogging reached such a furore that the injunction has been dropped! Sixteen hours it took, sixteen hours for victory: shortly before 1pm today, the Guardian learnt that it can go into Parliament to hear the answer to the question after all.

"When is a secret not a secret? When it's on Twitter," screams the BBC. Jack of Kent tweeted this, along with high kudos for @dontgetfooled who was at the bottom of much of the essential fact-finding (certainly the source of the documents I accessed yesterday). Jack also explains the mechanism of yesterday's outrage: not libel, but contempt of court; and suggests that this was precisely what the Guardian intended by their article yesterday. His calm tones belie his suggestion that this is the most important case of our generation. It is. When a corporation's lawyers have more power than a newspaper like the Guardian over what people hear, something is terribly, terribly wrong.

But we won. The Guardian reveals in full the question it was prevented from reporting or hearing. "The case has prompted an unprecedented surge in comment on the company on Twitter, with #trafigura and #carterruck becoming the most popular topics on the social media site," the article announces. And their opinion piece: "If it had stuck, a terrible precedent would have been set whereby the powerful gained a pivotal new power over the people of Great Britain: the power to turn their elected parliament into a shadowy body, as impermeable and hostile to them as the lobbies of corporate buildings.

Twitter went bonkers. Wonderfully so. So wonderfully, in fact, that a human rights lawyer was barely able to conceal his glee when I called him this afternoon."

I don't know about you, but I feel like running around the streets throwing balloons around, plus whatever people did when they heard that World War II was over. I feel like sending congratulations to every blogger, every twitterer out there who joined in. This isn't just about free speech, or rather free hearing, after all. It's about people's responsibilities to each other: the terrible things that happened to the people of the Ivory Coast, simply because Trafigura didn't feel like spending a few euros: things which should never happen, and which we should all be aware of to at least begin the fight. But Richard Wilson, the real name of "Don't Get Fooled Again" or @dontgetfooled, warns us, "They'll be back". In other words, he warns us that as lawyers such as Carter-Ruck catch up with the times, Twitter and other sites may eventually fall under the shadowy hands of the oil-diggers and the government, and be just as easy to repress as the newspapers. We can circumvent them for now, but will that always be the case?

Well, I don't know, but we shall just have to do what we can, and strive, whenever repression and gagging is practised by the powerful, to stay one step ahead. I'm sure there will be many more battles to come.

Update: Hahaha! "Let's all say thank you . . ." Well done LDV, excellent.


Alice said...

Further updates, please leave me as many as you can. Today's Points of Order in the Commons: some MPs ask if there will be rules to ensure this does not happen again http://tinyurl.com/yf9spo2

And what's all this about Newsnight being sued by Trafigura over the expose? I hadn't heard that one and I hope they make outrageously expensive idiots of themselves in doing so!

Alice said...

Gah . . . I'm talking to myself . . . but this has to be the nicest piece of feedback I've had on my blog for a looooong time. Thank you Paul!