Richard Hillgrove Column So Stupid, Shows Need For UK Speech Freedom

Printing PressRichard Hillgrove has written a column in the UK’s Guardian that is so ridiculous I wondered for a moment if it was some kind of parody. Hilgrove’s column was prompted by the recent controversy over “super injunctions” used by British celebrities to exercise prior restraint over the publication of information.

Social networks can’t have it both ways. Unless we decide to become an anarchistic society, Facebook and Twitter must be reeled in. If it’s not the Ryan Giggs’s legal action against Twitter that does it, it will be the next alleged sexual scandal that a public figure uses the courts to prevent being published.

The central point here is whether Twitter and Facebook, as publishers of content, should be as accountable as traditional media. The problem is one of scale. Traditional media controls its content by employing finite numbers of staff, freelance journalists and news agencies. In contrast, Facebook have an army of “citizen journalists” numbering 500 million and Twitter 175 million and don’t employ any of them.

Clearly, they are going to have to introduce a delay mechanism so that content can be checked before it goes up. There will have to be a completely different structure, which will be difficult when the whole thing about Twitter is its spontaneity.

As our friends across the pond would say: bollocks. While the British media is vibrant – sometimes far more so than here in America – they operate under numerous constraints that would be unacceptable to even the most risk-averse corporate American publisher. What the super injunction cases – along with England’s ridiculous libel law system – reinforce is that British citizens need a version of the first amendment as soon as possible. The modern printing press is available to everyone with an internet connection. They ought to have as much freedom as possible to use them to have their say.