The Case for Regulation

Members of UK official press regulator IMPRESS answer criticism that state-backed regulation could undermine a “vibrant local press”

Last week, I blogged about IMPRESS, which recently gained recognition as the first official press regulatory body in the UK.

The decision was made by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), the government-funded body set up in the wake of the 2012 Leveson Report to oversee press regulation.

Under Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which has been passed by Parliament but is awaiting a final signature from Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, publishers who are not a member of an approved regulator could face “exemplary” damages – for instance, having to pay their opponent’s costs in libel and privacy cases.

Critics argue that Section 40 could undermine a “vibrant local press” by “blackmailing” publishers into joining, otherwise face “draconian” sanctions.

I asked members of IMPRESS about the above criticisms. Here are their responses.

Stephen Rodgers – author at The Week in
I think the only people who would talk about ‘state backed press regulation undermining vibrant, local press’ are members of a cosy club who resisted Leveson, rejected its findings and continue to regulate themselves while using the word ‘independent.’

I went through the membership process for IMPRESS and found nothing to concern me or make me think I would have to change the way I operate. In fact, I think it actually offers more protection for small organisations like mine.

I can fully understand why the nationals are throwing their toys out of the pram. Nobody has ever dared to stand up to them in the past and I really hope the government does proceed with Section 40. Given that most governments still run scared of the press, somehow I don’t imagine it is going to happen though.

Martin Childs – Business Partner, Shropshire Live
We acknowledge that for their own reasons mainstream publishers may be critical of IMPRESS, but as a small independent publisher here is our reason for joining.

Being a trusted news source for our community was our top priority and it is important for us to be regulated in some way and have some support.

We were not forced to join, neither is any publication under the current rules, but we saw the benefit it could bring to a publication like ours and importantly it was a good sign for our readers to know that we can be a trusted source of local news.

It is open to any UK regulator organisation to be apply to be recognised under the Royal Charter and IMPRESS is the first to do that, so we were proud to be a member.

The Leveson inquiry was a long and detailed investigation and concluded on the ways the UK Press could be improved, making several recommendations that we think should be followed. We believe we have high ethical editorial content and recognise the importance of following certain standards as publishing content in press or online has great responsibility.

By joining IMPRESS it gives us the confidence to pursue stories knowing we have the help and backing of an independent regulator who can offer an arbitration scheme should any breach occur.

By having local press regulated it produces a higher level of quality news and journalism which can only be a good thing for all!

Spokesperson for The Ferret
The Ferret signed up because we think the media needs independent regulation to ensure public trust and we took into account the views of the National Union of Journalists who also backed Impress.

We lack the financial resources of many media so adopting Impress as our regulator offers us low-cost arbitration and potential legal protection, which is vital for our sustainability. We are committed to conducting investigations in the public interest and to publishing journalism of a high standard that is both accurate and fair. If we do receive any complaints in the future then Impress should help us to resolve them fairly and cost effectively.

Daniel Ionescu – Managing Editor, The Lincolnite
Stonebow Media are proud to be one of the founding members of IMPRESS with our three market leading publications in Lincolnshire – The Lincolnite, Lincolnshire Reporter and Lincolnshire Business. We reach more than half a million people every month, more than any traditional publisher in our patch.

Critics of IMPRESS appear to be intentionally misleading. Indeed, with Section 40, publishers not part of an approved regulator would have to pay all the costs, even if they win the case. With IMPRESS, that would not be the case.

In particular that is because before any case would go to court, it would have to go through a mediation process via IMPRESS. This mediation process is capped at £3,500, which is considerably lower than solicitors’ cost, and within the financial means of most local publishers (most of which are part of national chains).

As is the case now, anyone attempting to sue a publication without attempting mediation, risks having their case thrown out. With Section 40 and under IMPRESS, it would be even more likely to stop at the mediation process. Even IPSO has a similar process in place.

Also, let’s not forget the Leveson inquiry was about national publications misbehaving on an industrial scale over a long period of time. Local/regional publications have not been singled out, but as a matter of fact, actually praised for their practices.

If any local publishers are concerned about the implementation of Section 40, they should join IMPRESS and benefit from full protection and independent mediation, should that be required.

James Cracknell – Editor, Waltham Forest Echo
Trust in British journalism has collapsed after of a series of high-profile scandals (phone-hacking, Hillsborough etc) and an astonishing dedication to masking the truth that is still displayed on a daily basis by several major publications (The Sun, Daily Express etc).
The need to establish a new press regulator is the direct result of this collapse in trust.

The need to make that regulator become “state backed” as you call it is also the direct result of this collapse in trust. In an ideal world, a “state backed” regulator would not be necessary, but the failings of the PCC and now IPSO, which remains just another stooge of the major publishers, means that an alternative such as IMPRESS is needed.

How else can trust be restored? Even in the EU referendum this year, it became clear that the media was failing the public by publishing lies on their front pages. Your question regarding Section 40 should not be levelled against IMPRESS; they did not write that law. As the editor of a local paper that is a member of IMPRESS I feel reassured, not undermined.

Steve McNought – Director, Arkbound
The background to IMPRESS should be considered [in context]: how the UK media [had] no Leveson-compliant regulator; how the UK has one of the most concentrated media in the world, with little diversity and ownership by three main companies; the history of inaccuracies and even illegal activity by some mainstream press; poor enforcement of the Editors Code of Conduct by IPSO; insipid and ongoing connections with mass media owners and the Government; misrepresentation of disadvantaged groups and current issues; blatant party-political propaganda by some publications (not marked as opinion)….. and so on.

By developing a consistent, Leveson-compliant framework, IMPRESS has the capacity to infuse greater public confidence, proper accountability and diversity in the media – tackling the above problems. I’m not saying IMPRESS is flawless – I’ve raised concerns and criticisms with them myself – but I believe they are a much needed step forward.

It seems to me that references to ‘blackmailing’ and ‘draconian sanctions’ are misplaced and inaccurate. One could frame the ‘regulation’ of IPSO and the [non]enforcement of the Editors Code of Conduct – to the great detriment of individuals, disadvantaged groups and society as a whole – in a far worse light.

…I believe there is a strong case for a properly regulated media, in line with the Leveson Report and recommendations thereof. Most democratic nations have some form of enforceable code of conduct for the press, which helps uphold accuracy and deters the inappropriate promotion of powerful private interests (as has become the modus operandi of the UK’s media). It is not a question of organisations being forced to comply, but of them not breaking a code of conduct that exists to protect (not undermine) media freedom and its public interest connotations.

It is about re-asserting good journalism values  – taking media back as a tool for information, education and enlightenment. Those principles originate from the Renaissance Printing Press that resulted in a new age of progress, something that (arguably) has never been emulated since. Like all tools, without some kind of oversight or regulatory framework, such a mechanism of good can be used for less laudable purposes. To any informed and impartial mind, a glance through the UK’s tabloids (and many of the purportedly better publications) is proof of that. I could quote a few examples but this email would soon end up becoming the length of a book.


Two publications are no longer seeking membership with UK state-backed press regulator IMPRESS, with another on the fence

This week, it was announced that IMPRESS, a UK press regulator funded by motor racing tycoon Max Mosley, has gained recognition as a state-backed media watchdog.

The decision was made by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), the government-funded body set up in the wake of the 2012 Leveson Report to oversee press regulation.

Under Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which has been passed by Parliament but is awaiting a final signature from Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, publishers who are not a member of an approved regulator could face “exemplary” damages – for instance, having to pay their opponent’s costs in libel and privacy cases.

In June, IMPRESS revealed the names of the first 30 publications (comprising around 25 individual media publishers) to have signed up for membership.


IMPRESS’ June 14, 2016 press release w/ list of members

However, two of the publications listed by IMPRESS in the above press release – Leasehold Knowledge, a London-based property rights campaign website, and the Port Talbot Magnet, an independent Welsh paper – were not included in the official list of regulated publishers.

According to Lee Hall, Business Manager and Company Secretary at IMPRESS, the Port Talbot Magnet dropped out after it stopped publishing the print edition of the paper.



When I asked the Port Talbot Magnet for more information, I received no reply.

But here’s what founder of Leasehold Knowledge Sebastian O’Kelly sent me when asked about his organisation’s decision not to join IMPRESS:

“Two years ago we were having a very litigious complaint on our hands from a developer using one of London’s main media law firms, so we looked into press regulation.

However, since then we became a registered charity and we decided not to pursue this further. It was compliance in a scheme to protect us from the expense of vexatious defamation claims that interested us, not any issue of press regulation politics.

Our contact with Impress began before the involvement of Max Mosley.”

Another publication, The Edinburgh Reporter, features on both lists of IMPRESS members.

However, when I asked the Reporter’s editor Phyllis Stephen for her comments, she said she was no longer certain about her publication joining IMPRESS.

“We have not yet signed on the dotted line – because of the concerns which have been raised – and because we were waiting to see if IMPRESS would be approved as it was yesterday.

Still not quite sure whether we will be going forward with our membership at this stage – just not really had time to consider all of the implications.”

To date, only 50 publications (comprising around 33 individual media publishers) have signed up with IMPRESS.

The Tyranny of Values

Downing Street used misleading data from “right-wing think tank” to “name and shame” universities that host “extremist” speakers, newly released e-mails show

Late last year, Downing Street unveiled its updated Prevent strategy, requiring universities and colleges to “stop extremists radicalising students on campuses.”

Citing work by Whitehall’s Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU), Downing Street claimed that in 2014 there were “70 events involving speakers who are known to have promoted rhetoric that aimed to undermine core British values of democracy.”

Honouring the former PM David Cameron’s pledge to “name and shame” institutions that host “hate speakers,” four universities were singled out: King’s College London, Kingston University, Queen Mary, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).


Downing Street’s September 17, 2015 press release

However, e-mails recently obtained via a public records request show that much of the data attributed to the EAU in the above press release – including information used to “name and shame” universities – was taken from a misleading July 2015 report by Student Rights, an arm of “right-wing think tank” the Henry Jackson Society.

“Striking similarities” between the press release and the Student Rights report were first highlighted in this October 1, 2015 Times Higher Education article by Jack Grove.

For instance, the Student Rights report “lists the four London universities mentioned by Downing Street in its own table of most-visited universities. It also includes a list of former students later convicted of terrorism-related offences – of whom eight are also mentioned in the press release.”


Top: The Student Rights report / Bottom: Downing Street’s press release

The appropriated data was used to put a favourable spin on the government’s controversial counter-terrorism measures in a supporting statement by David Cameron, who prefaced his comments about “making sure that radical views and ideas are not given the oxygen they need to flourish” with a caveat about not “oppressing free speech.”

But efforts to assuage concerns about the possible chilling effect on free speech failed to convince, and the PM’s arguments in favour of limiting speech faltered under scrutiny.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron

Via the Independent, two of the four universities “named and shamed” by Downing Street denied hosting any of the so-called “hate speakers” listed in the press release, calling into question the premise that British universities are “hotbeds” of terrorist activity.

There were also questions about the list of convicted former students, two of whom were supposedly radicalised during their studies.

Via Times Higher Education:

“Both reports cite the example of the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to set off a bomb on a Detroit-bound plane in 2009, even though an inquiry by University College London found no evidence to suggest that he was radicalised while a student there.”


Top: The Student Rights report / Bottom: Downing Street’s press release

Roshonara Choudhry, who was jailed for life for stabbing Labour MP Stephen Timms in 2010 shortly after dropping out of King’s College London, also appears in both documents. She admitted to having been radicalised by watching over a hundred hours of speeches on YouTube, and said she dropped out of King’s because she felt it to be ‘anti-Islamic.’”

So how did Downing Street get it so wrong?

As this “URGENT” September 16, 2015 e-mail shows, Downing Street’s press office was still in the process of collecting data the morning prior to publication.


Per this quick response to the above request to fact-check an early draft of the press release, the office was then urged to “amend the figures for numbers of events in 2014.”


It was suggested using the dubious Student Rights report in response to the office’s request for “case studies on extremists speaking on campuses.”¹


Downing Street has yet to substantiate its claim that in 2014 “at least 70 events featuring hate speakers were held on campuses” – the only figure in the press release to have come from the EAU – with the Home Office refusing to provide a more detailed breakdown.

Assuming this figure is accurate, why did one of Downing Street’s internal fact-checkers request a correction? Why did Downing Street ignore calls to amend figures later used to smear British universities?

To ban or not to ban?

Also contained in the e-mails is a trial script” of the press release, plus an early draft of a scolding letter from Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson to former president of the National Union of Students (NUS) Megan Dunn.

As stated in the published version of the press release, the updated Prevent guidance requires universities to ensure those espousing extremist views do not go unchallenged.”

This means that when a university suspects an external speaker of holding “extremist” views, they must not be allowed to speak unless the “risk” of allowing them to do so is “mitigated by challenging the speaker…with someone holding opposing opinions.”

Anti-Prevent demonstration held in 2015

Downing Street had originally pushed for a statutory ban on “extremist speakers, including “non-violent extremists. The plans were were reportedly scrapped in March last year over concerns about free speech.

However, as this trial script” of the press release shows, Downing Street was still toying with the idea of a ban on “extremist speakers right up until September 16, 2015, just five days before the updated guidance came into force.


In May this year, the government announced its intention to revive the proposed ban.

The plans were criticised by the police lead for Prevent Simon Cole, who warned that a ban risked creating a “thought police,” and suggested it was questionable whether the proposed legislation was even operationally enforceable.

Jo Johnson’s letter to the NUS

In the published version of the Jo Johnson letter, the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) minister urged the NUS to end its overt opposition” to Prevent, citing the legal duty that will be placed on universities and colleges.”

However, per this early draft of the letter, Johnson chastised the NUS for its supposedly “inaccurate, outdated” and “misguided opinions,” which he claimed left no space for “balanced debate.”


Responding to the revised letter, Megan Dunn said that she was confused about why the government was so focused on the NUS, as “students’ unions are not public bodies and therefore not subject to the act.”

She added: “The NUS is a campaigning organisation, so our opposition to this agenda, based on both principled and practical concerns…is both valid and appropriate.”

Preventing Prevent

Since the updated Prevent strategy was brought into force, it’s been reported that the British government’s loose definition of extremism” is being used by other countries to crackdown on non-violent” dissent.

Last month, the prisoner advocacy group CAGE published a startling report on the junk science” underpinning the Prevent strategy’s assessment criteria for identifying at-risk” individuals at the so-called pre-criminal” stage of radicalisation.

The report prompted more than 140 academics and experts, including the renowned linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, to sign an open letter voicing concern over the lack of proper scientific scrutiny or public critique.”

Last week, the Open Justice Society Initiative published its report recommending a “major government rethink of the “badly-flawed Prevent strategy, particularly on its use in the education and health system.

The report highlights multiple, mutually reinforcing structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of human rights violations” including the right against discrimination, as well the right to freedom of expression, among other rights.”

¹At the time of this e-mail, information from the Student Rights report had already been added to the press release, although it’s unclear when.

Unblurred Lines II

The Daily Telegraph publishes Page 2 clarification based on my corrections request re: Crown Prosecution Service’s skewed statistics on rape

Last month, I blogged about how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) exaggerated the 2015-16 rape conviction rate.

Via a press release, the CPS claimed that it was “convicting more cases of rape…than ever before,” with “a rise in the rape conviction rate [from 56.9] to 57.9 per cent.”

Those figures were widely reported in the U.K. press, including The Daily Telegraph.


The Daily Telegraph’s September 6 article

However, a close look at the CPS’ 2015-16 Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crime report reveals that the rape conviction rate “includes cases initially flagged as rape [but] where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence” and “where a rape charge is subsequently amended.”

Last month, I made a corrections request to The Telegraph regarding “Sexual offences convictions in England and Wales hit record levels in the past year,” the paper’s September 6, 2016 article which stated that in 2015-16 the “conviction rate for rape cases rose to 57.9 per cent of the 4,643 cases brought.”

Last week, I received notification from the Telegraph’s Head of Editorial Compliance Jess McAree informing me that the article had been updated.

Dear Mr Jones

Sexual offences convictions in England and Wales hit record levels in the past year, 6 Sept 2016

Thank you for contacting us about this article.

The statistics cited in the article come from the CPS report you identify and were relayed to our journalist via a CPS press release; as an official authoritative source, it was one on which she was entitled to rely, and the information was published in good faith.

Regarding the disparity between CPS and MoJ figures that you highlight, the VAWG report makes clear that whereas the CPS rape figures are compiled over the financial year, the MoJ collects its figures for the calendar year. Moreover the latter represent cases charged and convicted for rape only; as you say, CPS figures include not only cases resulting in conviction for rape, but also those “initially flagged as rape where a conviction was obtained for an alternative or lesser offence.”

This is clarified by the VAWG report on p49:

“From CPS data 2015-16, 4,518 (98.6%) of cases initially flagged as rape were finally prosecuted for the principal offence categories of ‘sexual offences, including rape’ or more serious principal offences of ‘homicides’ or ‘offences against the person’. Of these, 3,972 were for sexual offences including rape; three for homicide and 543 for offences against the person’. Only 1.4% were for offences less than ‘sexual offences, including rape’ ”.

Where most rape cases under the CPS definition were indeed finally prosecuted as ‘sexual offences, including rape’, it does not appear that the CPS conviction statistics cited in our article are likely to be significantly misleading. Neither are they clearly irreconcilable with MoJ figures, as you suggest. Following your complaint, we asked the CPS how many convictions in the category ‘sexual offences, including rape’  were ‘pure’  rape convictions. They told us that this information is not available.

We are content to clarify this, and we will publish the following in our Corrections and Clarifications spot in a forthcoming issue of the Daily Telegraph. A version appropriate for context has already been added to the foot of the online article:

Rape conviction rate
An article on Sep 6 reported on CPS figures showing that the conviction rate for rape rose in the year 2015-16 to 57.9 per cent of prosecutions brought. We wish to clarify that though these cases were initially flagged as rape, CPS data show that the majority were eventually prosecuted in the principal offence category of ‘sexual offences including rape’. A breakdown of outcomes in this category is not available.

I trust that this is satisfactory.

Yours sincerely

Jess McAree | Head of Editorial Compliance
telegraphmediagroup | 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT

Today, the following clarification was published in “Corrections and Clarifications,” Page 2 of the print edition of the Telegraph.


Note: I included MoJ figures in my request to highlight a disparity in the rape conviction rate. I didn’t suggest that MoJ figures are “clearly irreconcilable” with CPS figures, merely that it is reasonable to assume that the 2015-16 conviction rate is lower than the CPS claims.

In his reply, McAree cites p49 of the VAWG report, which states that “98.6% of cases initially flagged as rape were finally prosecuted for the principal offence categories of ‘sexual offences, including rape’ or more serious principal offences of ‘homicides’ or ‘offences against the person.’”

However, McAree also states that the CPS was unable to provide The Telegraph with a breakdown of outcomes in the category “sexual offences, including rape.”

Why not? That may prove to be a question worth asking. Stay tuned.

See also: “Unblurred Lines,” my September 23, 2016 item about my corrections request to the Independent newspaper.

Shadows of Denial

Prominent nutritionist Dr. David Katz rails against the anti-vax movement in latest Huff Post column — why then does he associate with “cult-like” anti-vaxxers?

Via “Flu, Light, And Truth: FLUx et Veritas,” by Dr. David L. Katz, The Huffington Post, October 7, 2016:

This is just the right time for an annual booster of light and truth regarding the perennial menace of the flu, and our best defenses against it.

That we need such a booster at all is testimony to several things. First, the truth about flu recedes readily into the shadows of denial, conspiracy theories, and anti-scientific New Age nonsense. A bit of light is just the right disinfectant…

…We have recent evidence of what has been an obvious, advancing, and to those of us in public health, alarming trend over recent years: vaccine complacency, and vaccine opposition. The latest news on that front is survey research indicating that a high number of millennials don’t plan to immunize their children…

…In case you are among the many dubious about flu vaccination specifically, and immunization in general, I will address it bluntlyThe flu vaccine does not cause the flu – ever. It can’t because the vaccine does not contain a virus, just proteins.

Earlier this year, I blogged a series of original reports about the International Meta-Medicine Association (IMMA), an LA-based integrative medicine organisation that promotes a bizarre philosophy of disease based on the widely discredited theories of the notorious Ryke Geerd Hamer, a German ex-doctor implicated in the deaths of numerous cancer patients.

Like Hamer – who claims that vaccines are a Jewish conspiracy to implant genocidal “death chips” into the bodies of non-Jews – IMMA promotes a radical anti-vaccination agenda, as per this January 15, 2013 snippet of an article from IMMA’s official website (originally published in Natural News):

[H]ere’s the dirty little secret the vaccine industry doesn’t want you to know: Most people getting the flu right now are the same people who were vaccinated with the flu shot.

[The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] refuses to release any statistics on this, of course, because then the total hoax of the flu shot would be exposed. But I’ve been making phone calls to a large network of friends and professional contacts, and they’re all telling me the same thing: Of the people they know who are getting sick, about two-thirds routinely get flu shots!¹

Incredibly, Katz has maintained a years-long relationship with IMMA.

As I reported in July (click here to read), in 2013 Katz gave a recorded talk via Skype at the Be Meta-Healthy Online World Summit,” an IMMA event timed to coincide with the launch of the organisation’s online university, Meta-Health University (MHU) – which lists Katz as a faculty member in its 2015 programme.

As per this April 29, 2013 e-mail from IMMA founder Johannes Fisslinger, Katz was offered 50% commission on all sales of his talk:

From: META-Health, Johannes R. Fisslinger <>
To: <>; Helen B. Day <>; <>
Subject: Fwd: Featured Speaker at Integrative Medicine Online Global Summit
Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2013 09:03:59 +0000

Dear Dr. Katz,

would you please join us as featured speaker at our November Integrative Medicine Online Summit. We would pre-record via phone, so your time commitment is only about 45-60 minutes.

Presenters will be Bruce Lipton, Dean Ornish, Dr. Jonas (Samueli Institute), John Robbins and other Integrative Medicine and Meta-Health experts.

The Online Summit will be for FREE and we expect over 100,000 people attending.

I am personally such a big fan of your work and hope you join us in our mission to move Integrative Medicine and a new healing paradigm forward.

Warm regards,

Johannes R. Fisslinger
310 928 6638

PS: Attendees can purchase digital downloads or DVD sets and we can offer you as a summit partner 50% commission for all your sales (which will be sustantial). [sic]

However, when I asked Katz if he profited from the “substantial” sales of his talk, he accused me of harassment.

Almost three months later, Katz has seemingly made no effort to disassociate from IMMA. Why? One possible answer presents itself in a recent article by Crossfit’s Russ Greene, who details Katz’s flavourful history of peddling junk nutrition science while shilling for huge corporations like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Chobani.

Via The Russells:

Katz has managed to live two lives, one as a paid junk-food apologist, the other as an independent source for public health information. But what makes his story more remarkable is that he successfully played both roles under a single name. And the media and government failed to adequately vet him for conflicts of interest, all the while promoting his work to the unknowing public. Thanks to the CDC, US taxpayers provided the “core funds” for Katz’s research.

Logically and physically, only one Dr. David Katz can exist. His public health persona may be a facade, but the million-plus he has accepted from junk food companies remains a matter of fact.

¹Via“Studies have shown that the flu jab does work and will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.”

See also: “Freunde von Meta-Medicine,” my July 25, 2016 item about IMMA’s relationship with Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. David Katz.

Faux News

Fox News pundit Monica Crowley “incorrectly labeled the Bullsh**ter of the Day” – Salon publishes my corrections request re: snarky takedown column

Via Salon’s “Bullsh**ter of the Day column yesterday, staff writer Mireia Triguero Roura took aim at Fox News pundit Monica Crowley.


The target of Roura’s ire was an October 5 tweet in which Crowley, pictured standing next to a segment of the Berlin Wall, joked: “At the Berlin Wall last week. Walls work”.


Salon’s article as it appeared on October 5, 2016

Hawk-eyed readers will notice from the above screenshot that Crowley’s tweet is dated October 5, 2015 – not 2016, as Roura stated in her article.

Today, shortly after making a corrections request pointing out the mistake, I received the following reply from Benjamin Wheelock, Salon’s senior art director.

Thank you for bringing this error to our attention, it has been corrected.

Here’s the article as it looks now (includes a misspelling of Crowley’s name):


BBC News-bait

BBC Newsbeat aimed “to provoke conversation with tweet about Ukrainian prankster Vitalii Sediuk’s alleged sexual assault of reality TV star Kim Kardashian

Last week, BBC Newsbeat – the flagship news programme on BBC Radio 1 – tweeted the following apparently rhetorical question regarding Ukrainian prankster” Vitalii Sediuk’s alleged sexual assault of US television personality Kim Kardashian:


Newsbeat was roundly criticized for using “clickbait rhetorical questions as headlines and “legitimizing an indefensible POV, as award-winning English author Joanne Harris (MBE) charged in a series of tweets.


I put Harris’ valid questions to Newsbeat, along with my own question asking if there’s any ambiguity around whether it’s “OK to grab a woman on the street, prank or not.

Today, I received the following reply.

Hi Dean,

Thanks for contacting us about the Kim Kardashian tweet.

We accept it could have been worded more carefully.

We swiftly followed it up with a second tweet, headed “obviously not”.

Broadly our tone is more informal than the rest of BBC News but we do aim to provoke conversation around topical issues like this one.

We were not in any way legitimising the “prank” carried out by Vitalii Sediuk.

Kind regards,

Newsbeat team


Award-winning reporter Tristin Hopper says The National Post geo-blocked his article about UK celebrity injunction after being contacted by internationally renowned law firm Fasken Martineau

Last month, I blogged about efforts by David Furnishhusband of pop singer Elton Johnto censor journalists and Internet users from reporting or discussing his alleged extra-marital affair with another married couple.

Furnish hired at least two London law firms to enforce a high court injunction he obtained in January preventing newspapers in England and Wales from reporting the story.¹

But efforts to squash the story didn’t end there.

The story as reported by the Daily Mail earlier this year

In April, UK-based anti-piracy company Web Sheriff filed 12 copyright complaints with Google requesting it remove a total of 447 URLs linking to articles about the scandal.

Among the websites flagged for removal was Toronto-based publication The National Post, whose April 11, 2016 article, “Why the English media could go to jail for reporting on the olive oil trysts of Elton John’s husband” by WMA award-winning reporter Tristin Hopper, did not skimp on the grisly details of Furnish’s alleged affair.


Via a US proxy, the National Post’s April 11, 2016 article

Although Google didn’t enforce Web Sheriff’s complaint, Hopper’s article was later geo-blocked from being viewed in the UK.

When I asked Hopper about Web Sheriff, he said the Post geo-blocked his article after it was contacted by Fasken Martineau, an internationally renowned Canadian business law and mitigation firm with offices in London and Toronto.

“Web Sheriff did not contact us, but we did hear from a lawyer hired by Mr. Furnish,” said Hopper, referring to the Canadian firm.

He added: “It might be Furnish or Elton John’s regular Canadian lawyer. At a certain level of fame, I imagine you’ve got a lawyer on speed dial for every major country, whether it be for copyright issues or signing contracts or the like.”

National Post reporter Tristin Hopper

About the Post’s decision to geo-block his article in the UK, Hopper said: “[T]he legality is murky, but I do believe it was done on the belief that we become subject to UK law once we enter UK web space.”

Fasken Martineau did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

¹I live in Northern Ireland, therefore not bound by the injunction in England and Wales.

See also: “The Bitch is Back,” my September 12, 2016 article about Furnish’s efforts to censor online news stories about his alleged affair.