back to article Is UK web speech regulated? No.10: Er. We’ll get back to you

As plastered all over the news yesterday, politicians and anti-tabloid campaigners finally hatched a plan to form a publishing regulator, by royal charter, with the ability to fine misbehaving organs and demand corrections to articles. The letter of the law underpinning the watchdog states it will cover websites; government spin …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I can think of few people

    ...less suited to deciding on press regulation than the thieves, bunglers, incompetents and liars that comprise the Houses of Westminster.

    1. Thesheep

      Re: I can think of few people

      I can: the bungling, incompetent, thieving (stolen data), liars in the press. Oh, and the PCC.

    2. Joseph Lord

      Re: I can think of few people

      > I can think of few people less suited to deciding on press regulation than [politicians].

      Apart from the editors and owners of the biggest selling papers in the country who have proven themselves fundamentally incapable over decades of providing an acceptable framework and many of whom presided over a catalogs of unacceptable conduct in their own papers.

      I'm not saying that the current proposal is necessarily the right answer, I think a proper thought out law setting out the framework would have been better but Cameron blocked that so that he could try (and fail) to argue on a technicality that this wasn't statutory underpinning etc.

      The whole Royal Charter controlled by the Privy Council without Parliamentary oversight would have been FAR worse as effectively the government of the day would be able to meddle without Parliament and public review.

      I would be in favour of a particular scale or theshold of the normal reach or circulation of a website or publication before it came under this law. It is particularly the abuse by those with the biggest platforms that should be addressed and therefore those with large platforms should fall under it. Maybe under this definition Stephen Fry's tweets would fall under it but I don't see why they shouldn't if they reach millions of people he needs to use that platform responsibly.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can think of few people@Joseph Lord

        I think you miss the point, which is that the current lot are adding more new, ill thought through regulation to make up for failure to enforce a range of existing privacy, security and defamation laws, and that they can be relied upon so serve themselves, not you or me.

        In my view, carefully considered changes to those extant defamation, communication interception, privacy laws accompanied by proper, resolute and effective enforcement would be a better solution, rather than faffing around trying to come up with some (undoubtedly well paid) regulatory body that conjurs up rules that it applies to some people and organisations and not others. The only notable change that I can see needed would be to make directors and editors jointly liable for the crimes of their staff, even if they plead ignorance. Some bleater will be along soon to say that's not fair, but it is - it is the responsibility of directors and editors to know what their staff are doing, and to set the moral tone of the organisation.

        And going forward, this new press regulator will be handing out penalties it sees fit. The record of effectivness of extra-judicial penalties is not a good one. Take the ICO, a major doler-out of "civil monetary penalties", you call that a success? Or on a lower level, the penalties handed out by private companies enforcing decriminalised parking restrictions? But never mind, we'll let the clowns dream up a 2:30am compromise that suits the main political parties. That'll work out well, won't it?

        Looking at the number of downvotes, it is clear that most readers actually think that Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband are suitable people to decide on this matter (or that the matter is of such urgency and importance that it must be addressed now by somebody, even somebodies of meagre talent and notable vested interest). And that saddens me a lot. We have no energy policy, our public finances are ruined, our politcians have been repeatedly caught with their hand in the till, treating the law with contempt, the health and education sectors are unproductive messes, red tape makes real business exceptionally difficult in this country, we have no credible defence strategy, we make nothing of our skills and heritage in the technology and industrial sectors .........and yet those responsible for the mess are apparently ideally placed to take on the regulation of the one estate that might hold them to account.

        1. Joseph Lord

          Re: I can think of few people@Joseph Lord

          Some fair points, and quite a number that I agree with. It is being rushed for no good reason*, serious reform of defamation and privacy laws that included opportunities for the poorest to make use of them may be a better alternative but there are still areas that probably wouldn't cover such as unfair comment about groups rather than individuals. Your second paragraph I mostly agree with.

          Looking at the downvotes you received my guess (I didn't cast one) is that they resulted from the appearance of siding with with the newspaper editors against the democratically elected representatives of the people (described in a way to talk them up to slightly compensate for your original description although the truth is probably somewhere between). I don't agree with quite a few parts of your last paragraph but a particular releveant point to make is that another estate that holds the government to account is lawyers and judiciary and despite being overseen by a statutory regulatory body you don't see lawyers not bringing judicial reviews.

          * The rush appears to have been caused by Cameron throwing his toys out of the pram to bring this to a head and then having to find a face saving solution to avoid being beaten. Labour pushed the process threatening to attach changes to all sorts of bills but at that point Cameron was dead against any statute. Had he agreed to a properly thought through bill I think they would have stopped that.

    3. LarsG


      Who will be the appointed regulators?

      I expect that prat by the name of Hugh Grant will have his hand in the air screaming 'pick me, pick me!'

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who

        I find it sad that we jettison our free press for what was a failure in policing.

        Let's say, that the police decided instead of arresting burglars they instead said "well, if you buy us a pint at the local, we'll call it even" what do we think would happen? I recon those burglars would go on stealing in bigger and more exciting ways while the plod had a lot of beer. Of course one day a burglar kills the residents of a house he was robbing and it's all "oh shit!"

        This is basically what happened with the papers. Everyone knew the papers were doing it, but the police turned a blind eye, and joe public was of the opinion "well they're famous aren't they, they don't deserve privacy" and here you are.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The worst thing

    about censorship is <redacted> <redacted> <redacted>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The worst thing

      Maybe headline should have been


  3. Anonymous Coward

    RIPA abuse all over again....

    Here we go again. Just like RIPA is abused on a daily basis by councils up and down the land, this fucked up monstrosity WILL get used against individuals, you can bet on it.

    All so the "great and the good" can carry on troughing/stealing/getting dildos shoved up their arse at Nazi-themed parties/getting sucked off by whores in alleys knowing full well nobody will dare publish.

    When the next political scandal hits (like expenses) who's going to publish?

    Fuck you Hacked Off, well done for helping us further along the road of a police state.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

      "When the next political scandal hits (like expenses) who's going to publish?"

      News organisations could probably base themselves in the USA for this purpose, the First Amendment being relied upon to stop interference at the border.

      There is also the option of publishing on a .onion website, or similar. You could legitimately question whether anyone would ever read it though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

        Publishing from another country isn't going to work either unless you have zero UK assets and aren't resident here - not with the clause about publication mainly for UK consumption.

        You'll simply get sued in London and get hit with full costs whether you win or lose - something many of the commentards here fail to realise. If you don't defend the case, you'll get hit with exemplary damages but win or lose you ARE going to be paying the costs unless you sign up to be a LibLabCon lapdog.

        It's coming to something when Russia Today is taking the piss out of the UK for having more restrictive laws than Russia.

        Nice to see the OECD taking an interest though - that will be intensely embarrassing for all these Hon and Rt Hon people claiming we're one of the "free" countries of the world. Then again they just passed a law permitting secret trials so they have fuck all shame or conscience. Self-serving venal scum one and all.

    2. Ian 62

      Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

      Since when was doing anything with dildos at a party 'in the public interest'?

      Its that sort of 'news' that caused this problem.

      Redtop, Broadsheet, blogger, twitterer, whatever can GTF about what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors. (or anywhere that needs a long lens from the top of a step ladder).

      Report the NEWS, not some clickbaiting who gives a toss gossip article.

      1. Mick Sheppard

        Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

        It depends on who's doing what to whom and who is paying for the occasion. If someone in a position of power and influence is indulging in such practices in such a way that it lays them open to having their decision making compromised then its in the public interest.

        If its someone in the entertainment business then, unless they are doing something illegal, then it doesn't matter. The actual act isn't important it all depends on context.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

      All so the "great and the good" can carry on troughing/stealing/getting dildos shoved up their arse at Nazi-themed parties/getting sucked off by whores in alleys knowing full well nobody will dare publish.

      I'd argue that yout first two examples are things that should be revealed as being in the public interest, and the remainder are personal matters, and therefore none of your business. It is quite right that such things should not be published by the gutter press. What has anyone's private life got to do with anything in their public life, whoever they are?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

        "What has anyone's private life got to do with anything in their public life, whoever they are?"

        Nothing at all provided they're :

        a) not a politician or involved in any sort of law-making. Not going to go into specific instances but but there are plenty of examples of nepotism where without someone working out who was screwing who - obviously the taxpayers get screwed anyway - it would never have been exposed;

        b) a celebrity who uses a publicist to regularly plant "news articles" (AKA complete bullshit) to boost your client's income with the full knowledge of the client. Live by the sword then die by the sword.

        I'm not arguing people deserve a private life even when they are in public life but do you want us to be like France where the press are shit-scared of politicians?

    4. P. Lee

      Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

      Actually, if you look at the record, the House of Lords does far more to protect the "common people" (freedoms in general actually) than the House of Commons does.

      That is why the vested interests in the House of Commons want to replace the Lords with an elected House which will kowtow to the same interests that control the Commons.

      This is just the latest in a very long line of (the cynical would say, deliberately) poorly conceived legislation designed to reverse the situation in the UK where everything which is not specifically banned is allowed. The general theme is for sweeping bans and then add exceptions ("Oh but we wouldn't use the law to do that, to those people.") by ministerial or quango fiat.

      Add that to the law lords admitting that they can't keep with the avalanche of laws coming out of Brussels (around 5000/year) you have to wonder exactly what chance of keeping the law most people have. I'm pretty sure most of this is not what people vote for when they elect a government.

  4. Shasta McNasty

    What about forums on news related web sites?

    Are forum comments subject to the same restrictions as the news-related websites they may be part of?

    I'm glad to see that this has all been done in a well thought out, methodical and concerned manner and not in a knee-jerk, hasty, ill-conceived mash-up at 2 in the morning when everyone is tired and wants to go home.

    Oh wait...

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

      According to the amendments, comments on articles are not "subject to editorial control" and thus not covered by the regulator. But I could be wrong, or a lawyer could argue it past a judge and make it so anyway. A huge number of comments are not moderated an go live straight away, but some are, ironically, for legal reasons.

      This is going to end up as an expensive exercise for some, IMHO. It's a minefield.


      1. Don Jefe

        Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

        The problem with moderating online comments is that the website assumes editorial control of comments posted on the site.

        It's been touched on in court before but websites are setting themselves up for terrible liabilities in the future if they moderate comments. Sooner rather than later the sharks will start to feed on these sites.

        The biggest problem is when a site has the 'at our discretion' caveat that allows editorial staff to shoot down or accept comments based on their opinions. By doing this they endorse all comments they publish them. That's insanely risky & I certainly wouldn't want to be the site proving the editorial endorsement case in court.

        1. billse10

          Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

          in the amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill, there are some relevant definitions:

          "A person who is the operator of a website is not to be taken as having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the decision to publish any material on the site, or for content of the material, if the person did not post the material on the site"


          "The fact that the operator of the website may moderate statements posted on it by others does not matter for the purposes of subsection (3)."

          There is also:

          "Special interest titles

          4 A person who publishes a title that—

          (a) relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or

          profession, and

          (b) only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is

          relevant to the main content of the title."

          in the exemptions.

          so things like The Register are probably safe - IF that amendment goes through without being changed at the behest of people who don't know how to change a PIN number.

          1. koolholio

            Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

            So the evidence is all in the framing of the HTTP POST... ? what about passthrough techniques? I'm just thinking of origin source, and authenticity.

            relevant to the main content of the title... What if it's untitled document?

            This is interesting steering of ones ship!

          2. Old Handle
            IT Angle

            Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

            Does this mean El Reg will have to stop publishing non IT-related news to avoid losing that exemption?

      2. koolholio
        Black Helicopters

        Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

        It would most likely be covered by personal tort law... which is another minefield... Not to forget that, insulting was taken out of the public disorder legislation.

        Whilst I believe news should have a line, for which it should not cross (and I hope a big corp. doesnt come at me with a lawsuit)... it would become interesting if they try to make it apply to what has occured prior to their legislation... which may bring a whole new meaning to 'public interest' which could then, probably, be likened to a "witch hunting" exercise?

        Security is no doubt, still a sore subject... i.e. if it's a hypervisor device, your own device is supposedly included... Where is the line between utilising legislation for detecting/preventing crime and hindering technical/expressive/creative and sometimes even productive ability.

      3. Rob

        Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

        Sadly it was always going to be a minefield, how else can we keep solicitors employed when we're not quite as litigious as the US. Also probably doesn't help that a few lawyers are well and truly embedded in our political system one way or another and help to influence these things (sorry hadn't used my tinfoil hat for awhile and it needed dusting off).

      4. ukgnome

        Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

        OK - so some moderated forum comments may or may not be subject to this regulation, as it would depend on what legal definition could be argued by a lawyer. OK, I am fine with that loose definition, as I don't usually post too many insulting swipes.

        However, in the past I may of posted some things that were not true and may deeply offend people (Murdoch, I'm thinking of you, you bloody weasel) Would the regulation be in force for the past comments or is everything before just fine as long as you don't do it again?

  5. Desk Jockey

    Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

    Bloggers will not be classified as news organisations, that is just a load of rubbish being put forward by a press desperate to avoid being held to account for their actions. Bloggers, like any other idiot on the web, can be taken to court for committing libel. The regulator is not going to bother getting involved. Granted, the law will have to get decent wording to clearly define what is an online news publication like El Reg, and what is just a site or blog for the online ravings of an enlighted/fruitcase individual or small group. This should not be difficult as long as the idiots are kept away from doing the defining.

    I also take exception to this inflammatory statement "Yesterday Parliament voted to end over 300 years of freedom from political interference in the published word" No yesterday Parliament fudged a way to try and stop big newspapers from excercising uncontrolled power with no accountability, no understanding of their responsibilities in a demoncratic society and no recourse for the victims of their excesses. The law already exists to stop hacking etc, but the law does not stop newspapers from persuing a political vendetta, printing a load of garbage as news and causing distress and hardship to innocents under the label of "in the public interest". Causing hardship to politicians and doing investigative journalism can be easily defended as in the public interest so the whinges of the press about these reforms is a threat to lazy journalism rather than a genuine grievance. They are trying to scare the small outlets and bloggers by making up a load of threats that don't exist to those not in the 'big news provider' category.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

      "Parliament fudged a way to try and stop big newspapers from excercising uncontrolled power"

      And completely cocking everything up for the hundreds of national, regional and online outlets that haven't done anything wrong and were well aware of existing laws, which have been used to prosecute tabloid wrongdoing. IMHO.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

        How's it going to cock things up? You're not going to be subject to exemplary damages unless you're first subject to, err, damages. The flip side of the royal charter approach is the defamation boll can finally pass. Journos should be throwing a party.

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

          "How's it going to cock things up?"

          Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what is true and what isn't. This isn't hyperbole. Putting aside defamation for a second, if you assert a fact or opinion that a PR or politician disagrees with, they'll take it to the regulator. That regulator will then decide what the truth is. Good luck doing that if the fact is based on protected but trusted sources who cannot be disclosed, or if the opinion is contrary to the panel's sensibilities.

          We like to call the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport the "Ministry of Fun", and scientists "boffins". I can imagine the corrections on that. And this is the TRIVIAL stuff, let alone proper reporting. Every day we get PRs asking for headlines to be changed, and we resist because it's freedom of speech.

          Yet now, the regulator decides what is truth and what is allowable opinion; it's state-licensed publishing by the backdoor. The watchdog will order you to run a correction and an apology if it deems so, and fine you up to £1m or 1% of your revenue.

          Now, imagine struggling regional papers being bombarded with complaints from sniping PRs and pushy councillors who want the news told in their way. Imagine online outlets coming under fire from corporations who are already pissed off that you didn't just run the press release as written.

          Ironically, the big boys - the media moguls this law was supposed to slap down - can easily afford this and may stick to soft celeb stuff more than they do now just in case. If you hate the press now for being lazy and ineffectual, you're really going to see some serious shit.

          It's not automatically the end of the world; I don't think the publishing sector will collapse overnight. The regulator may roll over like the PCC. Everyone may boycott it and take up the ridiculous libel penalties to the ECHR. Paying all court costs even if you win doesn't sound like a fair trial to me.

          But even so, yes, it will cock everything up. It will cock up complaints, apologies, legal bills, revenue, revenge, truth, facts, opinion, the works. Because this law is so vague and there are plenty of people with an axe to grind.

          All IMHO. Views do not necessarily represent my employers'.


          1. Rikkeh


            >Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what it true and what isn't.

            Er, that already happens when people make a formal complaint about the media doing something unlawful. The place is known as a court and the person who mades the decision is usually referred to as a judge. The judge is appointed by the government.

            It's just that complaining has gotten easier. That's the route of your actual complaint- all of this hyperbole about how there's been a fundamental change to free speech is misconceived.

            1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

              Re: @diodesign

              "The place is known as a court and the person who mades the decision is usually referred to as a judge"

              No, you're confusing defamation with non-defamatory reporting. There's no law* that enforces accuracy in articles beyond defamatory statements precisely because outside of defamation, deciding what is true and what isn't is a nightmare. Show me the act of Parliament that makes saying something incorrect but not defamatory unlawful.

              Let's say we describe a company's decision as a U-turn. That's not a serious libel. But the company's PR doesn't want it described that way. It's a strategic stroke of genius, they'll say. We'll quote them in the story to that effect. But they want the headline and the copy changed. We refuse. They can't go to court. There's nothing to sue for.

              So they go to the regulator. The regulator then decides the truth, the narrative and what can and can't be said. Isn't that chilling? Or will you wait until your free speech is taken away?

              (All IMVHO)


              * Actually, Contempt of Court Act slaps down inaccurate reporting of an ongoing case if there's a chance of prejudicing a jury. I'll grant you that.

              1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

                Re: @diodesign

                IANAL but unfortunately I have some experience with tribunals. And the judges in tribunal do indeed adjudicate on the truth ("matters of fact"). I understand that to be a general principle, except in a jury trial where the jury becomes the judges of fact. So your assertion that we don't have people deciding the truth, is wrong. So I guess the question would be "would a reasonable person see it as a U-turn?" And, based on my reading of El Reg, you'll be safe.

                In my experience, most judges are pretty sharp. (And for the rest, there is the appeals process.) The quality of the regulator remains an open question. And the general sloppiness of the wording there will no doubt be an initial splurge of cases of the sort you outline, until precedent is settled. But regulation doesn't seem to have stymied the broadcast media who, for example, exposed Saville, problems in care homes, etc... I have no vote in the matter, but I don't see much to be concerned about.

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              3. Rikkeh

                Re: @diodesign

                My understanding is that defamation (a person saying something that lowers another's reputation in the eyes of a reasonable third person) through libel is actionable per se in the UK- i.e. you don't need to prove any actual damage to bring it to court (slander you do, which is why people are so keen to have internet forum rants seen as slander). Truth is a defence to a libellous comment (i.e. it gets you out of paying damages and costs), it doesn't stop the comment from being libellous and you have to go to the expense of proving in court that your comment was true. Opinion is similar.

                The upshot of this is that your U-turn example would be something that a vexatious person could bring to Court under the present system. Even if it was a flimsy case, you could easily be bullied into changing your headline by an angry letter and the thought of all the legal fees. I don't think you're losing anything.

                This is especially so as, having (albeit quickly) read the legislation, it doesn't seem that there is anything in there (malicious falsehood is already a tort) that you can sue for under the charter than you can't sue for already in the Courts. The Royal Charter for the press hasn't yet been finalised as parliament will doubtlessly amend it, so that's not for certain but then again, it could conceivably also contain a requirement for El Reg to keep a gibbon on the premises at all times (I would support this amendment).

                The two main flashing lights of the Charter don't seem to be being addressed by anyone are:

                1) Parliament isn't constitutionally supposed to be able to bind itself- the whole 2/3 majority thing can technically be overturned by a simple majority and

                2) We just don't know- nor do we know what other Royal Charters the government will sign in (that's the *real* scary thing, not regulation of the printed word to a miniscule extent compared to the broadcasted word).

                *Contempt of Court not only slaps down inaccurate reporting, it also slaps down anything prejudicial to the case, e.g. if someone had a history of unrelated offences, you wouldn't be able to report them before the verdict came in.

                1. diodesign Silver badge

                  Re: Rikkeh

                  [ this post won't have my Reg badge for various boring reasons ]

                  "My understanding is that defamation..."

                  Yes, brilliant. But I'm not talking about defamation. We already have a law for that. It may be harsh but at least it's more or less stable. I'm talking about non-defamatory, non-prejudicial reporting that is suddenly being controlled outside of a court room.

                  "A vexatious person could bring to Court under the present system"

                  Yes, indeed. It's a risk we take whenever we publish. But at least courts know when to throw things out for being frivolous; a CFA lawyer will know that too. But this, again, is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a regulator that's wildly emerged with the powers to really cock things up as I've previously described.

                  And, as you say and as Andrew touched upon in the story, the watchdog can grant its own powers. There are many things wrong with all of this, all for the sake of putting Murdoch in a bad mood for a couple of hours.


                  (PS: you're right about CoCA, although it doesn't negate my point)

                  1. Rikkeh

                    Re: Rikkeh

                    Should probably start by saying that I appreciate you taking the time to do a substantive reply and go "off badge" to do so.

                    The Civil Procedure Rules (the laws governing how litigation in the English Court is conducted) already have a provision that hammers people for costs where they unreasonably refuse to engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In many cases tried in this country, judges will pause claims for weeks and send the parties out to try and solve their dispute through mediation or another form of ADR, sometimes without either of the parties really wanting that.

                    My point is that laws just like the Royal Charter being proposed have been here for years and the sky hasn't fallen in (nor have the UK press complained about them nearly as vigourously). The point I made in my previous comments is that (barring crazy amendments- but one runs that risk with every bit of legislation every day) nothing will be unlawful that wasn't unlawful before.

                    You're just being pushed into ADR, in the same way that UK litigants generally are pushed into ADR every day, how is that a change to how you will operate day to day? The costs consequences I talk about above aren't the same as exemplary damages admittedly, but that's more a feature of who wrote the law, rather than the law's effect (and, I suspect that if the lawyers in parliament get a good grip on the Bill, costs consequences will replace exemplary damages).

                    I (and I don't think I'm alone here) think the press is blowing the issue out of all proportion because it doesn't want to be regulated, regardless of the actual merits of arguments for or against that regulation. This is causing them to reach for old school "freedom of the press" and "stalinist" dog whistles that look ridiculous when (as many others have pointed out) broadcast journalism has done amazing work in a much more tightly regulated environment.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

            "All IMHO"

            And it's a humble opinion you're welcome to, but it's one that is wrong.

            Your point is contingent on one key line of your post.

            "Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what is true and what isn't"

            This simply isn't the case, and it's a point that it is important to clarify, lest one be drawn into the torygraph/mail/index on censorship hyperbole on the issue. The regulator differs in a few ways from what you're implying.

            1) The form of the regulator is entirely up to the press. The press will write the code it enforces and set the rules it enforces them by. The rules will be recognised by a largely non-press body (1 representative from the press) independent of political actors and the enforcement itself will be done by another similarly independent non-press body. It is not state crafted in any way, and indeed stands as one of only two bills in history to have an entrenchment clause designed to prevent parliament from exerting control.

            2) The regulator is entirely voluntary. You don't have to join it. It is there to provide additional protections for those who wish to mark themselves as willing to play by the rules the rest of us want them to play by. If you want to carry on just working within the frameworks of legislation and justice, you are entirely free to do so, but you do run the risk of higher costs should any "reasonable" cases be brought against you. Your examples of things like "Ministry of Fun" or "Boffins" would not constitute "reasonable" defamation even under our current archaic framework.

            3) The legislation that was passed serves to enforce the carrot/stick systems of arbitration under the regulator or exemplary damages outside of the regulator. I can understand why independent publications, particularly ones like dear ol' aunty reg, might hate this, but the simple fact is this kind of regulation of the press is something the public really, really want. [] It does not constitute "state crafting" of the rules, or even the regulator that is going to uphold those rules.

            4) The regulator will not be concerned with "truth", but conduct. In this element it actually stands to provide strong protection from, for example, defamation cases for those willing to submit to its rules. Cases will be handled in arbitration, concerned with practice in good faith, rather than in court, where truth matters regardless of conduct and costs are inevitably higher for all involved. This is a simple trade off and one that in no way compromises the free press. It may, as you suggested earlier, incur higher costs, but it will only do so if you A) refuse to join the regulator and B) engage in defamatory conduct to the satisfaction of the courts. If you run a clean operation but don't join the regulator, you'll continue to operate as before. If you run a borderline operation (think Private Eye) and regularly fall foul of the courts without malice or poor practice, the arbitration process and protection from heavy damages will serve to reduce costs for all involved. If you both refuse to join the regulator and continue to flout the rules of common decency, well, basically, fuck you.

            There are plenty of reasons to criticise this plan, plenty of ways to fight for its improvement. Anyone paying attention will, for example, have noted that the entire middle section of this article has changed. It originally referred to a definition in the Charter, rather than the Act, concerned with defining "the press" for the means of constructing the recognition, drafting and enforcement panels of the regulator. It now [correctly] refers to definitions concerned with who would be subject to exemplary damages. The point is that these rules and structures will be crafted by the press and it is up to them whether they join them. If you think that puts the press at risk, engage with the process, join the panel as journalists [remember journalists had no input to the PCC], write the rules, form your industry's future. Lobby your MPs, ensure proper protections for journalism pass with the new defamation bill. Do not sit on an ivory tower pretending this is state licensing of the press.

            1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

              Re: Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

              "The form of the regulator is entirely up to the press"

              We'll see how that works out. As I understand it, members of the press are excluded right from the start in organising the regulator.

              "The regulator is entirely voluntary"

              And if you don't sign up, it's pay all costs if you successfully defend a libel case, and face huge damages if you lose. Now that's making an offer you can't refuse.

              "the entire middle section of this article has changed"

              No, that's overstating the mark somewhat. The first pull-out par in bold quoted the charter when it should have quoted the law; this was fixed up very soon after publication. The point being made wasn't derailed by this accident, but it's obviously a good idea to refer to the correct document.


              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

                "We'll see how that works out. As I understand it, members of the press are excluded right from the start in organising the regulator."

                The image you've linked contradicts that. The code committee, which is the one that will actually be setting the rules, will be two thirds drawn from the press, one third each editors and journalists, with the final third a panel of independents intended to moderate the process. As the boards will operate on a principle of majority, principle, this gives the press effective powers of self-regulation, introducing proper oversight of the enforcement of that regulation. They will set their own rules, and as long as they meet the fairly low bar set in the legislation, those rules will be recognised under the royal charter and anyone signing up to them will be granted significant protections from the law. In the other two key arms, the main board and the appointing board, the press will hold a slight minority of seats. They're not being "excluded" in any way, they're being involved at every stage, and have control of the most important stage - setting the regulations.

                "And if you don't sign up, it's pay all costs if you successfully defend a libel case, and face huge damages if you lose. Now that's making an offer you can't refuse."

                And how often are small publications like the register sued for defamation? There is a test in place in legislation for this, and it's the judge's old favourite of "reasonable cases". While exposure is increased (at the end of the day, that's kind of the point), the risk of frivolous cases being brought by the defamation equivalent of ambulance chasers is low - those who bring unreasonable cases tend to be saddled with the entire legal costs themselves. This risk will be further mitigated with the assent of the Defamation Bill, which will bring into statute a range of measures aimed at eliminating frivolous cases, including a requirement for the claimant to prove they have suffered "serious harm" before the case can be heard.

                "No, that's overstating the mark somewhat."

                True, but what would the register be without a daily dose of hyperbole?

              2. M Gale

                Re: Having to publish corrections.

                I'd suggest doing so in a manner just on the legal side of facetiousness.

                "The Rt Hon. Gentleman has submitted a court order compelling us to publish the following...:" (insert bullhit here)

                "...end court-ordered publication. Normal service resumed."

                Or "we said this.." "...the court order has compelled us to correct it to this..."

                I'm sure the Reg hacks have plenty of imagination. As do most of the press.

      2. Ben Holmes

        Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

        I am baffled why you have been downvoted for this, Chris. It is exactly the case that a few individuals have ruined the existing status quo for the vast majority of sensible, law-abiding publications whether big or small.

        The real question is why these select few publications got away with it for so long. The answer to that question has never been 'lack of legislation' - moreover the existing legislation has not been applied. And that is the biggest WTF about the whole sordid affair.

      3. Desk Jockey

        Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

        Whilst I would agree with the sentiment that the politicians are cocking everything up, my response is that they have not done so 'yet'! The devil is in the details and so when the dust settles a bit, the smaller outlets will need to put representatives forward who will scrutinise the wording and make sure the idiots do not write something completely contradictory or stifling.

        Just because something may be done badly, does not mean you should not do it at all. And while it would be unfair to punish the smaller outlets for the sins of the bigger ones, they still have to obey the rules. As they pretty much do so anyway, it should not be hard to keep them 'within compliance' as long as they make sure they are represented when drafting the legislation. That is democracy these days.

    2. SW

      Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

      DJ, you just got yourself a +1 for the new term...

      "Demoncratic society"

      Someone will most certainly be demonised for this.

    3. breakfast Silver badge

      Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

      We hear a lot about how the only way to preserve good investigative journalism is through the free action of an unregulated press.

      I guess an example of that would be how little investigative journalism ever gets done through highly regulated media outlets such as television.

      Of course, if television is managing to have solid investigative journalism then the racket that News International and the Daily Hatemail group are making can be considered the mindless moaning and wailing of wild beasts, devoid of thought or meaning.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

        "I guess an example of that would be how little investigative journalism ever gets done through highly regulated media outlets such as television."

        I'd have to contest this. Most recently, the Jimmy Savile affair began with a TV investigation and the BBC's failure to broadcast their investigation was uncovered by another TV investigation, and prior to that we had the Winterbourne View abuse. If the idea that no regulation led to better investigative journalism held true, the best investigations would be coming from the entirely unregulated world of the internet. The dominance of the print press in investigative work is primarily a matter of resources. TV is expensive to produce, it's difficult to peel off half a dozen news staff to a three month project that, at best, is going to fill a single 60 minute episode of Panorama or Dispatches. That's particularly true when the details of the stories they produce are often data heavy. It's difficult to turn something like an analysis of MP's expenses claims into compelling television.

  6. FartingHippo
    Black Helicopters

    Oh dear. Here we go again.

    Remember those anti-terror laws? The ones intended for terrorist? You know, the ones your local council used to check you were putting your bins out on time? Yes, those ones.

    When you hear a politician say "Oh, don't worry. Maybe the language could have been a little clearer, but I promise this won't be abused" you can safely assume that either:

    a) they are stupid

    b) they think you are stupid

    c) they are lying through their teeth

    d) any combination of the above

    Because as sure a shit stinks a blogger is going to end up in a court sometime soon.

    1. Ben Holmes

      Re: Oh dear. Here we go again.

      Yes, we all saw how well those anti-terror laws worked out for Paul Chambers, didn't we? Common sense prevailed in the end but my god he had to work for it.

      FWIW, I don't condone what he said - it was a stupid, crass, knee-jerk comment. But he didn't deserve the stupidity shitstorm which landed on him as a result.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear. Here we go again.

      Whilst I broadly agree with your concerns, I am pretty damn sure that my local council hasn't been using anti-terror laws to check if I have been putting my bins out on time.

      Yes, these laws may be poorly worded, vague, unnecessary, and may have been abused in specific circumstances, but such hyperbolic rhetoric does nothing to aid the case against them. If anything, it undermines the argument, when it gets called out as bullshit.

      1. FartingHippo

        @ Loyal Commenter

        "I am pretty damn sure that my local council hasn't been using anti-terror laws to check if I have been putting my bins out on time" and "hyperbolic rhetoric"

        Wrong on both counts, I'm afraid.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: @ Loyal Commenter

          The article you link to, an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph from 2008, states:

          "Seventy-seven of the 151 councils who responded to a Freedom of Information request admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to crack down on "domestic waste, littering or fly-tipping offences" in the last three years."

          This does not equate to councils using RIPA to check if bins are put out on time. What it does show, is that councils have used these powers to tackle littering, fly tipping, and 'domestic waste'. The authors could quite easily have given separate figures for these, but instead, deliberately lump them together, in order to claim that RIPA is being used widely to check on people's bins. Since they do this, it is quite resonable to suspect that of the three things stated, this one probably amounts to maybe 1% of those numbers, or one council. It also doesn;t say it has anything to do with 'putting bins out on time'.

          It is also worth noting that this is a piece published in the Telegraph, a notably Conservative-leaning publication (so much that it is known colloquially as the Torygraph), published at a time when Labour were in power, and had just introduced RIPA. There will, understandably, be bias.

          Now, I'm not saying that laws don't get abused. I'm not saying that RIPA hasn't been abused. I AM saying it isn't used to check when I put my bins out. I got several down-votes for stating this, but I stand by my statement that exaggerating claims doesn't strengthen them, especially when the exaggerations are this transparent.

    3. John Sanders
      Big Brother

      Re: Oh dear. Here we go again.

      If a piece of legislation allows it to be abused, you can bet it will be abused extensively. And when a politician says it will not be abused, then bet it will be abused even more so.

  7. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    Royal charter eh?

    Let's hope the Queen doesn't sign it...

    Seriously: you want to make up laws at 2:30am? That's why we have the debates, committees, second house and so on: to stop crap laws getting on the books - or at least, not quite so many of them.

  8. batfastad


    Would it not be better to actually enforce laws that already exist? I thought there were already laws that give the ability for victims to be able to claim compensation for libel and laws to cover unauthorised access to private information?

    You couldn't make this stuff up... Though apparently civil servants are!

    "Politicians are not born, they are excreted."

    - Marcus Tullius Cicero

    1. Kubla Cant

      Off topic

      In a single day we get a long and fairly erudite article about 3D printing, and a commentard quoting Cicero.

      Brilliant stuff!

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Not much new

    > has Parliament just voted to regulate internet speech?

    No, it's always been regulated. You have NEVER been able to say anything you please, online (just like in real life). You can't tell lies about people, you can't make false claims for things you sell, or have bought and reviewed. You can't make hateful statements and you can't incite naughtyness. In short - anything that you can't say in print (already) has always been restricted on the internet - even if enforcement has been on the non-existent side of inconsistent and spotty.

    However if this new set of rules actually gets ENFORCED, in the way the old set never was then I really, really hope it will finally put an end to most of the innuendo, bitchiness, snide comments and general nastiness that passes for tabloid journalism: either in print or online.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Not much new

      If you don't like the tabloid press, you aren't required to buy their products. But if no-one bought newspapers, there wouldn't be any newspapers. And that applies just as much to The Guardian and New Statesman as to The Sun and The Beano for that matter. Wait till The Grauniad gets fined for something posted on 'Comment is Free'.

      Of course, what's likely to happen to Internet comment is that it will move to offshore sites that can't be touched or (saving a great firewall of the UK) blocked. And who will that benefit?

    2. cortland

      Re: Not much new

      It's got people spitting infinitives already.

  10. Colin Millar

    Remind me again...

    What problem was it that this was set up to resolve?

    It couldn't be the hacking of peoples' phones cos either that is already illegal or it was easy enough to make it so.

    It couldn't be the bribing of police officers for information cos I am fairly certain that is already illegal.

    Oh yeah - I remember now. It is to prevent further disgraceful episodes of the press sticking their noses into the business of the thieving governing classes and get some revenge for a washed up actor with a Huge sense of entitlement who got caught with his pants down and didn't like the fall-out.

    If the press in the UK has any backbone at all it will refuse to go anywhere near a press regulator and bait it mercilessly until it dies of shame.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Remind me again...


      It's to stop the gutter press sticking their noses into the private lives of people who happen to be famous, often at the expense of those people's professional careers, purely for the short-term titillation of morons, and lots of profit for the owners of those non-so-august periodicals.

      It's to limit the scope that the press currently has to influence, rather than inform, the people by telling lies and half-truths in order to manipulate political policies in their favour.

      It's to remind people like Piers Morgan what a slimy little turd he is.

      Whether the laws will be effective, balanced, fair and well enforced remains to be seen.

    2. El Presidente

      Re: Remind me again...

      The most disgraceful aspect of this is the NUJs support for the cobbled together legislation.

      If the alleged financial shenanigans and alleged voting irregularities at the NUJ were not enough for you to cancel your NUJ subs then this surely is.

    3. Velv

      Re: Remind me again...

      "If the press in the UK has any backbone at all it will refuse to go anywhere near a press regulator and bait it mercilessly until it dies of shame."

      The Press in the UK doesn't have a backbone. It doesn't have a single bone in its body.

      So it went after some washed up actor with his pants down. But it ignored the washed up hack and his editor. Or the man down the street. Or the thousands who play away from home every week. All because they can sensationalise it.

      It published details of a murder suspect "named locally as" but took no responsibility for clearing his name when he was proved innocent.

      Proper investigative journalism will not be affected by the regulator. Publishing hearsay just to sell papers or airtime needs to be brought under control. There are a few good journalists out there. Sadly a lot more live by the mantra "never let the truth get in the way of a good story".

    4. Rikkeh

      Re: Remind me again...

      Much of the problem was the fact that ordinary people didn't have a hope in hell of funding a private civil action against a tabloid that had defamed and harassed them for a quick story. That left them with the PCC as their only alternative, and it demonstrated in spades that it didn't have the backing it needed to deliver justice to the victims of big press bullying.

      The Royal Charter appears merely to sponsor a cheap and quick form of alternative dispute resolution for complaints against the press as an alternative to taking them to Court.

      I'm slightly mystified why El Reg would be so violently against the Royal Charter in its position as a tech journal. I would imagine that it's only likely to be taken to task by IT companies and execs with deep enough pockets to subject it to protracted and expensive litigation. If anything, the Charter would protect El Reg (if it signed up) from a Lord McAlpine claim-type situation where a rich victim of its alleged defamation launches a broadside so well funded that it knocks out its reserves.

      1. Colin Millar

        Re: Remind me again...

        I would agree that there is a very significant problem in the UK of equal access to the law and it is about to get a lot worse with further cuts to the legal aid budget. Justice in the UK may be blind but it can still smell the moolah.

        The solution to this problem is not to be found in giving politicians control of the press but in giving all citizens equal access to the law.

        And they can dress a state regulator up as a Royal Charter or anything else they want to - if it is a creature of statute it can be influenced, manipulated and even directly controlled by politicians - it's got feathers and it quacks - it's a duck.

  11. Kubla Cant

    What does "news-related" mean?

    i. news or information about current affairs;

    ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or

    iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.

    I think we all understood the "related" part. What we need to know is what constitutes "news". This fatuous set of definitions skates over that bit.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: What does "news-related" mean?

      If you take as an example the sort of tripe that the likes of Channel 5 broadcast as 'news' in order to cover their obligations; pretty much anything as long as it involves a z-list sleb.

    2. El Presidente

      Re: What does "news-related" mean? @Kubla Can't

      i. news or information about current affairs;

      Yes, your post falls under this heading.

      ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs

      Yes, your post falls under this heading, too.

      iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.

      This too. Especially i someone with an axe to grind thinks so.

  12. Thesheep

    Any thought gone into this article?

    Or did you just reprint all the mashed up crap regurgitated by the vested interests of the Murdoch (and other) empires, nicely aided and abetted by their friends?

    What happened to journalists looking to source facts? Other than an Index of Censorship press release where is your evidence for "300 years" of freedom.

    For completeness sake you could at least have included the rest of their arguments, and added some ad-hominem attacks on Hugh Grant and a mention of Hitler...

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Blame those who caused this

    The very day the politicians are cooking up this half-arsed compromise, The Sun has to fork over the usual "substantial sum" after admitting in the High Court that it received a politician's stolen phone and read all the texts etc on it. All this nonsense about the death of a free press and shackles being put on bloggers is just a smokescreen to try avoid any restraints being placed on the more sordid elements of the press who just seem to regard ordinary damages claims as a cost of doing their nasty business. If The Reg wants to blame anyone for this mess, blame your "colleagues" in the tabloid press.

  14. Arsey-grump

    And the winners are.... (drum roll)

    Once again, the greedy army of lawyers and legal people who will trouser huge sums of money every time they can drag anyone into court... (no change then).

  15. nsld

    The elephant in the room

    Is that "hacked off" have managed to completely divert from the core underlying problem that we have a corrupt police force which point blank refused to do anything until forced to do so.

    The real criminals in this sorry saga are the Metropolitan Police and the press workers who actually broke existing laws with impunity knowing they where unlikely to be prosecuted.

    What "hacked off" have done is divert completely from that issue and have succeeded in damaging the free press in a way a government could never do alone, whilst at the same time nothing gets done about the underlying corruption of a police force aside from a few token arrests.

    Creating bad law to cover up failings in another area of law will never work but the whole political debate was a sham from the start, the government can blame the Hacked off brigade when this comes back to bite but the reality is the government has been desperate to control the press for a long time and Hugh and his mates have provided the perfect trojan horse to achieve this.

    1. Desk Jockey

      Re: The elephant in the room @NSLD

      What various police officers did was illegal. Some of them have been arrested. What you are inavertedly suggesting in your post is that the police arrest journalists for doing things like claiming that Jefferies guy was guilty of murdering that girl in Bristol when he was 'helping police with their enquiries'. This one act was completely wrong, everyone knows that, but it is not illegal. What the police did can be fixed by improving the culture and by enforcing the law properly. It has nothing directly to do with journalism.

      I would not want the police to be arresting journalists for bad articles because this IS when you end up with a police state. But by the same token, you can't have a situation where the papers can get away with this every day, and they do. Jefferies was probably able to get a lawyer on a 'take the fee out of the big fat winnings' basis, not everyone can do that. Thus some kind of system is needed and it can't be as toothless as the old PCC was.

      1. nsld

        Re: The elephant in the room @NSLD


        I am not suggesting anything of the sort!

        The Met has had a long and cosy relationship with the press and police officers where and are routinely paid for information by the press, very few of those who have been paid have or will be prosecuted. The fact Rebekah Wade openly admitted to this in a parlimentary enquiry tells you just how widespread this is.

        As for the phone hacking, highly illegal and should have been properly prosecuted at the time, however, it was swept under the carpet and only a few journo's where sacrificed, It was only with the overall outcry that something has finally happened and people are being arrested and prosecuted.

        We have plenty of existing laws to deal with these issues and the area of libel reform is a seperate issue. Whilst we do need something stronger than the PCC we don't need a statutory body with powers to fine to deal with arguments over stuff that is not defamatory. After all, if a celebrity gets caught with his penis in the wrong womans mouth do you want her described accurately as a "crack whore" or inaccurately as a "service provider"?

        1. Desk Jockey

          Re: The elephant in the room @NSLD

          I pretty much agree with you about the wrongdoings of the Met, but this regulator actually would have nothing to do with that. In a proper world, this would still be a crime for the police to deal with, all the regulator would do is refer the matter to the police. Despite the FUD being put out there, the regulator is not going to decide whether what the press did was illegal or not, it is not within their remit nor should it be.

          Unfortunately we do need a statutory body even we would rather we didn't. As someone who has had to deal with the press, I can tell you that you would be amazed by just how much fiction they write. I am not talking about opinions or the government is wrong/corrupt sort of stuff I do mean outright fiction about people and events and basic stuff that should be factually reported. Any professional in any other kind of organisation would be fired for such poor quality work. You cannot legislate this sort of thing and you definitely cannot have politicians acting as judges. The whole issue is influenced too much by politics and a small group of rich white men. The whole rotten mess needs a kicking because the newspapers have to get their act together on this, you have no idea just how damaging it is.

          Remember when Russia split up and went 'capitalist' after the Berlin Wall came down? (Damn I am old!) So many people in Russia suddenly started acting like gangsters and paying for illegal goods, buying up state assets on the cheap etc because that is what they thought capitalism/democracy was all about thanks to Soviet propaganda. It almost caused a major collapse in their fledging democracy (arguably it did as it created a situation where Putin had to act like a dictator to sort it all out). Our own press are creating the same sort of environment, history has plenty of examples. It is all because too few people have too much control over the information being put forward to the public.

          I have sympathy for the concerns of The Register and Private Eye etc as they are getting caught up in this for no fault of their own, but the current situation is simply unsustainable. This problem was first flagged up over 40 years ago and politics and the media did nothing to fix it. Thus the chickens have come home to roost and something has to be done to counter both the power of the media and the politicians.

  16. Chris Miller


    I've just seen my neighbour walking down the High Street with a young lady who definitely isn't his wife. Looks like ...

    Oh, hang on a mo', there's someone at the door ...

  17. Chris Rowland

    The press have brought this on themselves.

    Their behaviour, in lying, cheating, stealing and bribing is what has caused this. They have behaved in a totally immoral way where the only constraint is "can I get away with it".

    This is not a few bad apples. It is the whole lot of them.

    I can think of no other business where lying, stealing and bribing is considered normal business tactics.

    Having demonstrated they are not fit to run an honest business they will be, I hope, forced to do so.

    Given a choice between the government and the press I'd trust the government's honesty and integrity more than the press.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: The press have brought this on themselves.

      "Given a choice between the government and the press I'd trust the government's honesty and integrity more than the press."

      There are no words.


      1. Joseph Lord

        Re: The press have brought this on themselves.

        You are right that allowing full trust in the government without oversight would be a massive mistake but the post you are responding to is right to the extent that the press* has brought it on themselves.

        Neither government power nor press power should be completely unchecked and appropriate legislation ensuring regulation of powerful bodies is not in principle wrong.

        I definitely wouldn't want anything stopping Private Eye, The Independent, The Guardian, The Telegraph or any other paper, website or blog that seriously investigates government and holds them to account for their behaviour but major publishers have significant power and influence and ensuring that isn't abused is also important.

        * I think the majority of the problems really came from News International and Associated Press although there may have been some problems at the Mirror and others too.

      2. El Presidente

        Re: The press have brought this on themselves.

        @diodesign "There are no words."

        There are and the second one is off :)

        @Chris Rowland: People lumping all journalists together as 'The Press' are as ignorant of the facts as people lumping all broadcasters in with 'The BBC' but don't let that stop you making a chump of yourself, get stuck in.

    2. ukgnome

      Re: @Chris Rowland

      "Given a choice between the government and the press I'd trust the government's honesty and integrity more than the press"

      If it wasn't for the press we wouldn't know what a bunch of lying cheating scummers those MP types are.

      Or has everyone forgotten the expenses scandal? The speeding points saga? Jeffrey Archer?

      Not all people in the press are guttersnipes, yes there are some upskirt paps, and some phone bug ne'er-do-wells but there are also some highly skilled and highly trained individuals that in some circumstances put their life on the line just so that you know what is going on in the world. A choice between the government or the press, no contest the press wins, whilst they may have a small collections of naughty types they don't have as many as the government.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Firstly the government simply does not have the funds to check every website

    Secondly all you have to do is post onto a non UK domain name avoiding or etc, legaly there is nothing you can do and problem solved, so regulation would be a joke.

    1. Peladon

      With respect...

      The US legal system has already, and on more than one occasion, demonstrated the degree to which the national designation (or otherwise) of a domain name can be set aside. They have given any legal authority with the inclination to take such steps a number of lessons in seizing domain names and servers.

      You may, or may not, choose to believe non-US governments would choose, or be able, to follow similar paths. But if I may, I'll wonder if it might not turn out to be quite as simple as you suggest.

      Of course, I'm probably wrong. After all, I'm an Idiot :-).

  19. WibbleMe

    Now if we had representation in parliament surely someone would stand up for us! checkout why we have no voice.

  20. IT Hack

    Train wreck

    It is quite clear that Westminster exists in own little world. I call it Arseholeville.

  21. Mike Pellatt


    Amidst all this panic, let us not forget that Scallywag was taken off the market and bankrupted by John Major's lawsuit, not (as it turned out) for telling a falsehood, but solely getting the identity of the person he was shagging wrong, for playing away he was. This under the law as it existed then. How much worse it will be now.

    Of course, if they'd said at the time that it was the fragrant Edwina Currie, not a soul would have believed them....

    1. IT Hack

      Re: Scallywag

      I wonder what Mr Hislop is thinking about this...

      1. arrbee

        Re: Scallywag

        I believe Mr Hislop is on record as saying that what was actually needed was for the existing laws to be enforced properly.

        I would guess that all those tabloid editors and journalists that people are complaining about will be at the head of the complainants queue for the new Panel in order to stop the Eye discussing their valuable contributions to society.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The main problem as I see it...

    ... is that the press, particularly the tabloids in their various guises have blurred the distinction between 'in the public interest' and 'interesting to the public'.

    Just which no-mark footballer is boffing whichever Z-list reality star may be of interest to some but there is certainly no public interest argument. How exactly does it benefit the public? The simple answer is it doesnt as a general rule (lets be honest there will always be exceptions) and the sooner the tabloids go back to making this distinction the better.

    1. Colin Millar
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The main problem as I see it...

      Yeah - there is definitely a public interest argument supporting reporting all the shit that slebs get up to.

      Slebs put themselves forward as role models for us all, they get privileged treatment and opportunities which are not available to others, their comments and views are more likely to be reported and given publicity than other citizens and they have a disproportionate degree of power and influence because of their sleb status which exists becuase of the fictitious character their PR people have decided that they will be. They spend a great dea of effort convincing us to buy into them (and their sponsored products) based on their publicly presented image. It is very much in the public interest to report on behaviour which basically points out that that image is just so much fluff. The A-Z level of their slebrity is irrelevant except as to degree.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here is a prediction for you.

    Once of the very first actions brought under this will be a company trying to shut down a website that highlights problems with its service and products. They will attempt to have the site classified as a news site and then shut them down.

    I don't know what company it will be, but at least one will try this tactic and if it succeeds there will be flood of others.

  24. TallPaul
    Thumb Up

    1% of my turnover? Heh, bring it on.

    Apparently "The Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions (including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover of the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000)" (Schedule 3, para 19).

    Well I'm an individual so presumably my "turnover" is my salary. If all I have to worry about is them going for a bite of 1% of that then bring it on. I'm far more worried, as should anyone who is blogging be, about the *existing* UK libel law. And quite right too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1% of my turnover? Heh, bring it on.

      including but not limited to financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover

    2. El Presidente

      Re: 1% of my turnover? Heh, bring it on.

      Set yourself up as a LTC company, make your turnover £1

      Gently push a penny over the table in full and final settlement :)

  25. Anonymous Coward

    enough of the bollocks

    hacking milly dowler's voice mail or repeating police lies about bristolian landlords has got fuck all to do with freedom of the press.

  26. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Err.. it's not political interference in the published word, it's judicial interference in the written word - defame somebody in writing and you're up before the beak - just as it has been for hundreds of years. No change there, and as Ian Hislop (I think) told the Leverson Inquiry, existing laws already cover what's been going on, it's just nobody can be arsed to enforece them.

  27. Tom 38

    …an English court decides who is a publisher and what is news

    Are you surprised, politicians pass laws and judges interpret them, this is the basis of English law.

  28. Vimes

    At the risk of being seen to ask a stupid question, how would this new system stand up to article 10 of the ECHR? You know, the one that the government keeps on attacking and saying that we need to leave.

    I assume that it would be of no use in this case, even though this new system could end up having a chilling effect on free speech?

  29. James Gosling

    No Good Moaning Now

    The gutter press went too far. Freedom cuts both ways. People are entitled to be free from harassment and persecution by the press. There are newspapers in the UK which have made a living out of ruining peoples lives without just cause. If they had behaved like adults this would not have been necessary, but they haven't and so this was inevitable. Unfortunately it reached the point in the UK where the damage done by the press outweighed the good.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should move to China instead.

    And it's official, the UK is becoming the new China, a communist state. It doesn't look like it now but where does it stop? What next is to be silenced? I suspect we will be seeing a few more laws coming in to make sure the press can't say a word about the politicians in future, even if the data was gathered legitimately.

    Next on the list, the Great Firewall of Great Britain


  31. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


    I see a lot of systematic downvoting of what are, to me, sane, balanced and factual posts purely because they appear to criticise the gutter press. I wonder by whom...

  32. JaitcH

    Just how will the UK Government ...

    censor any web site using a US domain and/or server?

    That's why people like the US - TMZ can say almost anything it likes and it is protected by the First Amendment. Of course, the UK doesn't have a Constitution which is why Parliament can dream up, and pass, dumb legislation.

  33. cortland
    Big Brother

    So where is

    John Peter Zenger when you need him?

    Nowhere; he's been dead over 245 years -- but if there's anything left of him, it's laughing bitterly..

    See you now:

    " You are Englishmen, mind your privilege, give not away your right"

    -- William Penn, at his trial in1670

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...anything that gets rid of the Daily Mail is always a good thing in my opinion.

    I welcome this.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Human rights time machine

    So you still think you are living in the 21st century? Wrong, my friends: you have just been magically transported back to early Stuart England, a nice round 400 years ago.

    Ever since then - starting with the English Civil War - people have been struggling to assert the rights of citizens against the state. Their first move was to defeat Charles I, arrest him, and eventually try him and cut his head off. His main offences were raising taxes without parliamentary authority ("no taxation without representation", as the American colonists were later to put it so succinctly) and the arbitrary exercise of royal authority by trying people in secret courts according to rules that were never publicly revealed.

    We're heading back to those days at supersonic speed. Star Chamber, anyone? Whoops, PLEASE don't tell anyone I said that...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 0935

    I suppose you don't agree with Evelyn Beatrice Hall's summary of Voltaire's attitudes to censorship: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

    The point is that freedom of speech is indivisible. Rather like virginity, it's impossible to take away a little bit of it. If freedom of speech does not include the right to say and write things that others consider offensive, it is meaningless. (No one tries to stop you saying what they agree with, after all).

    I too find much of the Daily Mail's output foolish or misguided. Almost all of it is trivial. So what? That is no reason to suppress it - its value is proved by the amount of money that people spend to buy it. I actually read it from cover to cover occasionally, so I can keep in touch with attitudes and opinions that I disagree with.

    Remember: "First they came for the communists..." The time is perhaps not far off when we can no longer engage in this kind of discussion - either online or in public places like bars, or indeed in our own homes. Are you really happy about that?

  37. The Alpha Klutz

    in UK

    u will get your butt pounded for breaking any of the vague ridiculous internet laws.

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