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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Two takes on McAlpine's attempts to make a criminal complaint

Not content with a BBC apology, damages, resignation of its Director General; ongoing attempts to extract damages from ITV for a flash of a card that anyone without specialist software and an inkling what to expect on the card could read; targeted action against several high profile tweeters and mass action against thousands more...

It was reported today that Lord McAlpine's lawyers have approached the Met Police with a view to making a criminal complaint.

If you want the legal ins-and-outs of criminal malicious communications try David Allen Green.

But it's also interesting to look behind this complaint at what might be happening.

There's two schools of thought.  @Syn0nymph has had some interesting observations to date and he speculates that a criminal complaint will make it easier to extract user information from Twitter than through the civil courts.
"Earlier in the week a spokeswoman for Twitter in the U.K. pointed out the company’s statement on requests for personal information: 
“U.S. law authorizes Twitter to respond to requests for user information from foreign law enforcement agencies that are issued via U.S. court either by way of a mutual legal assistance treaty or a letter rogatory. It is our policy to respond to such U.S. court ordered requests when properly served.” 
Read his full post here.
It's worth noting that South Tyneside Council is reported to have spent £142,725 trying in vain to unmask one user in the infamous "Mr Monkey case".

It could get very costly for McAlpine to unmask hundreds of tweeters via the civil courts, with no guarantee of success.  A criminal complaint might be very handy indeed.

My own take on this relates to the online backlash since McAlpine announced he'd take action against 10,000 tweeters.

Opinion in my own circle is split - with the majority sympathetic of McAlpine - whilst I argue many tweeters could be forgiven for their folly and that such moves risk dramatically narrowing the range of voices and participation in online debate.

However I have noticed through keeping an eye on certain noisy quarters of the internet that McAlpine's attempts to rein-in Twitter have created a pretty awful backlash.

Not quite the Streisand Effect but a degree of anger and rage at perceived injustice and cover-ups in general in relation to child abuse inquiries.

I'm wondering whether McAlpine's approach to the Met Police might actually be in relation to the strong abuse and re-statement of serious allegations by a minority online.

Obviously personal attacks can't be condoned but I can't help feel that the best way to put this and so many other rumours doing the rounds to bed is not criminal action against the angry mob but a wide-ranging inquiry into historical mistreatment of children in care and a historical unwillingness for police to investigate allegations at the time.


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