Ryan Giggs’ Affair vs My Freedom of Speech

Ryan Giggs’ Affair vs My Freedom of Speech

My name is Andrew Paul Barratt, I’m a student of Applied Computing at The University of Dundee and on the 21st of May 2011, I tweeted the identity of a man who has a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair as Ryan Giggs.

Tweet: -cough cough- Imogen Thomas -cough cough- affair -cough cough- Ryan Giggs -cough cough- Screw your injunction! -cough cough splutter-

There exists a paradox in the campaigns for internet freedom, the campaign to protect the privacy of ourselves and others online and the campaign to be able to say anything about what we want, who we want and how we want. I say this to show that we recognise that respect for privacy is of great importance however, the use of this to put limits of our freedom of speech is a place where the line must be drawn.

In the United Kingdom, an injunction can be sought after by those wishing to keep matters of their personal life private by denying the press from publishing details of said matters. A super-injunction is much the same but goes one step further in that it denies the press from making public the fact that an injunction even exists.

Recently, Ryan Giggs, a footballer who has played for Wales and been honoured as an Officer of the British Empire (OBE), claimed a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair with ex Big Brother Housemate, Imogen Thomas.

After his name, previously known only as CBT, was leaked on Twitter, calls for prosecution were made, igniting a rampage of rebellion with thousands of people, including myself, tweeting and retweeting Giggs’ name again and again.

On the 23rd of May, at least 75,000 had published his name and Member of Parliament (MP) John Hemming stood in the house during discussion on privacy orders and named the footballer, thus using his parliamentary privilege to break the court order. It’s worth noting that parliament is always broadcast live on dedicated national television channel, BBC Parliament.

Mr Hemming asked whether it was right to carry on supporting injunctions that it was clear that the population of the United Kingdom had no support for, referring to them as “a law that clearly does not have public consent.”

And so the key point was addressed, in a democratic country, where the government that makes the laws is chosen by its people, how can a law that goes against our freedom of speech have ever been allowed to exist? I for one, will not support it.

Today, the 25th of May 2011, Twitter’s European boss, Tony Wang announced that they would hand over the names of all those who had revealed Ryan Giggs’ affair and that all of them would be on their own to defend themselves, “whether that is a motion to quash the order or to oppose it or do a number of other things to defend themselves.”

Well my decision is to oppose it. I will not delete what I tweeted and I will not be made silent. It is our freedom of speech and it is my right to defend it. Injunctions that deny our right to say what we like are, in my opinion, illegal and I will campaign to see an end to them.

Published byapbarratt

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  • In this case, is the injunction intended to prevent the freedom of speech? This whole situation only concerns a few people, but it is commercially beneficial for it to be broken.

    There was nothing for him to gain from attempting to sue the people that had tweeted it. The information is in the public domain, and it is only going to cause him more publicity if he attempts to.

    Do you think there should be room in the law where people are not denied there freedom of speech, but where organisations can not release personal information purely for commercial gain, as opposed to the public interest?

    • That’s an interesting thought. Perhaps the answer is to create a system where no one can publish such information purely for profit. The way news papers could get around this would be to make sure that when publishing such information, they also make it available free of charge. For instance, an article in a tabloid paper about such a case must also be available to read, free of charge, online. If the information is already in the public domain, free of charge, then it’s fair play.

  • Jayne Frye

    The comment ”a law that clearly does not have public consent” reminded me of something I’ve recently become aware of that is available in the US – jury nullification. In short – if you o not agree with the law, as a juror you can vote to acquit. Ironically, I did not know about it until a judge in Orlando issued an administrative order attempting to ban someone from distributing information on jury nullification outside the county courthouse. More information is here http://fija.org/

    I wish that was available in the UK, because should anyone come to trial over this, and be able to request trial by jury, I do feel that that there is a likelihood that jurors would vote to acquit – on the basis that they think the law *is* an ass.

    Excellent piece – one of the better that I’ve seen on the topic.

    PS This is typed on a machine running Mint. :)

    • Sorry for taking so long to reply but you really caught my attention, I’ve just spent the last couple of hours reading up on Jury Nullification which turns out is still an option here in the United Kingdom. Perhaps if a pattern of nullification appears in these court cases, then the government will be forced to accept that the British people object to these injunctions and can not accept them as part of our country’s law.

      Thanks for your kind words, good to hear from a fellow open sourcer.

  • McCackle

    Can I also suggest that unless you actually possessed actual knowledge that CBT was Ryan Giggs (i.e. you were, or were connected to, a journalist or lawyer who knew the details of the injunction), then all you can be shown to have done was to perpetuate a rumour. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect Schillings will find it hard to show that you are guilty of breaching an injunction unless you had privileged knowledge of that injunction. I don’t see that repeating a rumour is illegal. Libellous maybe, but then let them sue you for that.

    • An interesting point, I guess it is entirely possible that it is not true but considering the evidence I doubt it.
      After all, if Mr X has an injunction to stop people saying that he had an affair with Miss Y and then someone says that Mr Z had an affair with Miss Y, then I highly doubt that Mr X would be pursuing a court case.
      For now, I will write here that yes, I have simply posted details of allegations, not of proven fact.

  • John Smith

    Thanks. I have duly printed your blog entry and sent it to the Attorney-General’s office, together with your WHOIS.

    With rights come responsibilities. You don’t get to cry “fire” in a crowded theatre. (Unless, of course, there is in fact an actual fire. In which case, cry away.) The Convention has provisions about abusing one right to suppress another. Some would say that by issuing the injunction (which is not, as you incorrectly state, a “super-injunction”), CTB was using his Article 8 right to suppress your Article 10 right. Others would say that by using your Article 10 right, you were suppressing the Article 8 right of CTB and his family.

    Also, McCackle is wrong. Under the “Spycatcher” doctrine, anyone can be caught by an injunction regardless of whether they are a party to it or not (which is why even though the injunction is against News Group Newspapers and not Associated Newspapers, the Daily Mail can’t publish). All that is required is proof on balance of probabilities that the person publishing the statement had knowledge of the injunction. The text of your tweet makes it very clear that you did have such knowledge. Not only do you mention the two names in the same “sentence” as the word “affair”, in clear breach of the order, but the words “Screw your injunction” kind of give the game away. One more thing: you’re unlikely to get away with a Spartacus defence, since (IIRC under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act) the court can infer that a statement purporting to be made by you was made by you unless you can prove otherwise. The first paragraph here blows that out of the water.

    75,000 people on Twitter will thank you for volunteering to become a test case.

    • Yes dear. I’m also a YouTuber and I know trolls when I see them. I mean seriously, why would someone investigating all of this first send this data to the authorities and then, post a comment to make me fearful. -yawn-

    • Jane Smith

      Did you back trace the site and report to the cyber police too??? Consequences will never be the same again!!!!!!!!!!