Category Archives: Journalism

The Legal Challenges of Social Media

Legal Challenges of social media imageHow has the law adapted to the emergence and proliferation of social media tools and digital technology? Furthermore, how successful has the law been in governing the challenges associated with an ongoing reformulation of our understandings of public and private spaces in the online environment?

These were the key questions discussed by a panel of experts at the Information Law and Policy Centre earlier this month. The event heralded the launch of a new book entitled the ‘Legal Challenges of Social Media’ edited by Dr David Mangan (City Law School) and Dr Lorna Gillies (University of Strathclyde).  A number of the book’s authors provided insights into the contents of their individual chapters.

Social Media and Press Regulation

Professor Ian Walden began proceedings with a discussion of his chapter on press regulation. His chapter was informed by his own experience on the board of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) between 2009 and 2014.

Walden started by addressing the question of what constitutes “press law”. Walden highlighted that for the most part journalists and editors are subject to the same law as most people – there is no special ‘public interest’ defence or journalistic exemption for hacking into the voicemail of a mobile phone user for example. At the same time, journalists abide (to varying degrees) to an Editors’ Code which goes beyond the provisions of the law. In this context, the online environment and social media has rendered press regulation even more complex in a number of ways.

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ECREA Communication Law and Policy Section Workshop

Readers of the Information and Law Policy Centre blog may be interested in the following ECREA event.

The Future of Media Content:
Interventions and Industries in the Internet Era
15 – 16 September 2017

The “Communication Law and Policy” and “Media Industries and Cultural Production” Sections of the European Communications Research and Education Association (ECREA) invite you to their 2017 joint workshop on The Future of Content: Interventions and Industries in the Internet Era, hosted by the University of East Anglia’s School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies. This unique opportunity will bring together those investigating the processes of production and distribution with those studying the policy and regulation governing those processes.

Renowned Prof Eli Noam from Columbia University, NY will deliver the keynote address. A keynote panel of industry and policy actors will additionally set the tone for a day and a half of research-based discussions on trends and challenges.

Media and communications industries have changed dramatically over the past decade and both businesses and policy makers are struggling to adapt. Legacy media companies engaged in cultural and news production are trying to change their business models in a manner that will allow them to survive in the face of increased competition for advertising income and the constraints of having a new breed of intermediaries between them and their audiences.

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Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: Guardian News and Media

The Law Commission has invited interested parties to write submissions commenting on the proposals outlined in a consultation report on ‘official data protection’. The consultation period closed for submissions on 3 May, although some organisations have been given an extended deadline. (For more detailed background on the Law Commission’s work please see the first post in this series). 

The Information Law and Policy Centre is re-publishing some of the submissions written by stakeholders and interested parties in response to the Law Commission’s consultation report (pdf) to our blog. In due course, we will collate the submissions on a single resource page. If you have written a submission for the consultation you would like (re)-published please contact us

Please note that none of the published submissions reflect the views of the Information Law and Policy Centre which aims to promote and facilitate cross-disciplinary law and policy research, in collaboration with a variety of national and international institutions.

The fourteenth submission in our series is the response submitted by Guardian News and Media. The executive summary outlines that Guardian News and Media is “very concerned that the effect of the measures set out in the consultation paper (‘CP’) would be to make it easier for the government to severely limit the reporting of public interest stories”.

Download (PDF, 912KB)

(Previous submissions published in this series: Open Rights GroupCFOI and Article 19The Courage FoundationLibertyPublic Concern at WorkThe Institute of Employment RightsTransparency International UKNational Union of Journalists, and English Pen, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship, the Open Government NetworkLorna Woods, Lawrence McNamara and Judith Townend, Global Witness, and the British Computer Society.)

Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: British Computer Society

The Law Commission has invited interested parties to write submissions commenting on the proposals outlined in a consultation report on ‘official data protection’. The consultation period closed for submissions on 3 May, although some organisations have been given an extended deadline. (For more detailed background on the Law Commission’s work please see the first post in this series). 

The Information Law and Policy Centre is re-publishing some of the submissions written by stakeholders and interested parties in response to the Law Commission’s consultation report (pdf) to our blog. In due course, we will collate the submissions on a single resource page. If you have written a submission for the consultation you would like (re)-published please contact us

Please note that none of the published submissions reflect the views of the Information Law and Policy Centre which aims to promote and facilitate cross-disciplinary law and policy research, in collaboration with a variety of national and international institutions.

The thirteenth submission in our series is the response submitted by the British Computer Society.

Download (PDF, 829KB)

(Previous submissions published in this series: Open Rights GroupCFOI and Article 19The Courage FoundationLibertyPublic Concern at WorkThe Institute of Employment RightsTransparency International UKNational Union of Journalists, and English Pen, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship, the Open Government NetworkLorna Woods, Lawrence McNamara and Judith Townend, and Global Witness.)

Any reform to the law on Official Secrets must provide robust protection for public interest disclosures and open justice

Lorna Woods, Lawrence McNamara and Judith Townend – affiliated members of the Information Law and Policy Centre – comment on the Law Commission’s proposals to reform ‘Protection of Official Data’. This blog post accompanies their submission to the Law Commission’s consultation, and is part of our series documenting the submissions.  

With the election now in the past, the wheels of government are beginning to grind again. While most eyes are on Brussels, it is important that the bright lights of Brexit do not draw attention away from other work that is resuming and ongoing. Among it, the Law Commission will continue its project that considers the revision of the laws on Official Secrets, with its final proposals expected later this year.

The initiative to consider existing law on the ‘Protection of Official Data’ – primarily the Official Secrets Acts 1911-1989 – began with the Cabinet Office when it referred the project to the Commission in 2015. A 315-page consultation paper with provisional recommendations was published by the Commission in spring 2017. It will be the Government that will decide how to proceed, and whether to introduce new draft legislation, once the final recommendations are made.  (No reference to Official Data or Official Secrets was made in the Queen’s Speech).

The Law Commission, which came under – perhaps unanticipated – fire from the media and NGOs for the nature of the proposed reform plans and a perceived lack of consultation before the first report was published, has since been engaging with a wider range of groups and individuals through in-person meetings. It has also published a ‘myth-buster’ on Twitter in response to some of the reports, and shared more explanatory material ahead of meetings.

However, this has not assuaged concerns, with strong reservations about the proposals expressed in a range of written industry and third sector written submissions, a number of which are available online.

We are among those who have met with the Law Commission since publication of its report, and in our written submission we focus on aspects of the consultation that relate to freedom of expression and the public interest: the public interest defence; the Independent Statutory Commissioner model; and access to court proceedings. We also address the related issue of the conduct of trials.

In important respects our position on these issues is often substantially at odds with the Law Commission’s provisional views. In summary:

  • We reject the Commission’s view that the difficulties surrounding a public interest defence outweigh its benefits. We recommend that there should be a public interest defence in official secrets offences for all those engaged in journalism in the public interest, including sources;
  • We recommend that any reformed system should not rely solely on an independent Statutory Commissioner (as the Commission suggests). It should instead adopt the Canadian model of an Independent Commissioner in addition to a public interest defence for official secrets offences;
  • We agree that the Commission’s proposed test of necessity for closing public access to proceedings is an improvement on the current law, but we argue that the proposed change alone falls short of what is required to adhere to the rule of law;
  • We disagree with the Commission’s tentative suggestion that the availability of closed material procedures in civil cases, now permitted under the Justice and Security Act 2013, should prompt a wider review of the ways that fair trial rights and safeguarding of secrets is balanced in criminal cases. On the contrary, there is no good reason at this point in time to embark on a wider review of criminal process and national security issues.

Our full submission can be read at this link.

As a research exercise, independent from the official consultation, the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is continuing to publish submissions on this topic: if you or your organisation would like to share yours in this way, please contact Dr Daniel Bennett at daniel.bennett@sas.ac.uk.

Professor Lorna Woods is professor in law, University of Essex; Dr Lawrence McNamara is a reader in law, University of York and senior research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law; and Dr Judith Townend, is a lecturer in media and information law at the University of Sussex.

They are also affiliated to the Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC) at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. The views expressed by the authors in this report are made in a personal capacity and do not represent the views of the ILPC.

Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: Lorna Woods, Lawrence McNamara and Judith Townend

The Law Commission has invited interested parties to write submissions commenting on the proposals outlined in a consultation report on ‘official data protection’. The consultation period closed for submissions on 3 May, although some organisations have been given an extended deadline. (For more detailed background on the Law Commission’s work please see the first post in this series). 

The Information Law and Policy Centre is re-publishing some of the submissions written by stakeholders and interested parties in response to the Law Commission’s consultation report (pdf) to our blog. In due course, we will collate the submissions on a single resource page. If you have written a submission for the consultation you would like (re)-published please contact us

Please note that none of the published submissions reflect the views of the Information Law and Policy Centre which aims to promote and facilitate cross-disciplinary law and policy research, in collaboration with a variety of national and international institutions.

The eleventh submission in our series is the response submitted by Professor Lorna Woods (professor in law, University of Essex); Dr Lawrence McNamara (reader in law, University of York and senior research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law); and Dr Judith Townend, (lecturer in media and information law at the University of Sussex). They are all affiliated members of the Information Law and Policy Centre. The views expressed by the authors in this report are made in a personal capacity and do not represent the views of the ILPC. Their submission was accompanied by a blog post

(Previous submissions published in this series: Open Rights Group, CFOI and Article 19, The Courage FoundationLibertyPublic Concern at WorkThe Institute of Employment RightsTransparency International UKNational Union of Journalists, and English Pen, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship, and the Open Government Network.)

Download (PDF, 718KB)

Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: English Pen, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship

The Law Commission has invited interested parties to write submissions commenting on the proposals outlined in a consultation report on ‘official data protection’. The consultation period closed for submissions on 3 May, although some organisations have been given an extended deadline. (For more detailed background on the Law Commission’s work please see the first post in this series). 

The Information Law and Policy Centre is re-publishing some of the submissions written by stakeholders and interested parties in response to the Law Commission’s consultation report (pdf) to our blog. In due course, we will collate the submissions on a single resource page. If you have written a submission for the consultation you would like (re)-published please contact us

Please note that none of the published submissions reflect the views of the Information Law and Policy Centre which aims to promote and facilitate cross-disciplinary law and policy research, in collaboration with a variety of national and international institutions.

The ninth submission in our series is the joint response submitted by English Pen, Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship. Their joint submission was accompanied by a press release calling for the inclusion of a ‘public interest defence’ as part of the reforms.   

(Previous submissions published in this series: Open Rights Group, CFOI and Article 19, The Courage FoundationLibertyPublic Concern at WorkThe Institute of Employment RightsTransparency International UK and the National Union of Journalists.)

Download (PDF, 462KB)

Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

The Law Commission has invited interested parties to write submissions commenting on the proposals outlined in a consultation report on ‘official data protection’. The consultation period closed for submissions on 3 May, although some organisations have been given an extended deadline. (For more detailed background on the Law Commission’s work please see the first post in this series). 

The Information Law and Policy Centre is re-publishing some of the submissions written by stakeholders and interested parties in response to the Law Commission’s consultation report (pdf) to our blog. In due course, we will collate the submissions on a single resource page. If you have written a submission for the consultation you would like (re)-published please contact us

Please note that none of the published submissions reflect the views of the Information Law and Policy Centre which aims to promote and facilitate cross-disciplinary law and policy research, in collaboration with a variety of national and international institutions.

The eighth submission in our series is the response submitted by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). The NUJ’s submission was accompanied by a press release arguing “that editorial matters relating to national security, official secrets and the public interest are decisions best left to journalists.”

(Previous submissions published in this series: Open Rights Group, CFOI and Article 19, The Courage FoundationLibertyPublic Concern at WorkThe Institute of Employment Rights and Transparency International UK)

Download (PDF, 281KB)

Information Law and Policy in the General Election Manifestos

With the General Election fast-approaching, we have collected together a few blog posts from around the web that consider what the party manifestos say about information law and policy.

Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content, discusses proposed changes to Media law as part of a more general review of law and justice policies. He identifies newspaper regulation as the big issue here: “Specifically,

  1. Should the Leveson inquiry recommendations be enforced in full, including the costs provisions of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013
  2. Should the second part of the Leveson inquiry go ahead?”

Chris Pounder has picked out all the relevant sections in the manifestos which relate to data protection and human rights (Article 8 and 10) issues. He says:

“The main controversy relates to the Conservative manifesto which hints at leaving the ECHR after the next General Election in 2022 and raises the prospect of the establishment of a national population register.”

Christopher Knight at 11KBW provides an entertaining look at the data protection elements of the manifestos (while also passing comment on the various aesthetic features). He considers the Lib Dems pledge to repeal or substantially re-write the Investigatory Powers Act 2016; Labour’s commitment to “strong data protection rules to protect personal privacy”; and the Conservatives’ “Digital Charter” as well as their proposals for the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care, and a new “expert Data Use and Ethics Commission”.

If you like election manifestos presented infographically, then Rights Info has jazzed up the relevant sections on human rights for you. You’ll find ‘Privacy and Free Speech’ at the bottom of the section for each of the parties.

If you want to find out more about the approach taken to cybersecurity in the manifestos, please do come along to our free cybersecurity event this Monday where our expert panel will be looking at party policies and the fall out from the recent WannaCry attack. You can book online here.

UNESCO report: surveillance and data collection are putting journalists and sources at risk

In this guest post for World Press Freedom Day, Julie Posetti at the University of Wollongong, analyses how mass surveillance and data retention regimes are threatening journalists’ sources. Her new UNESCO report explores similar themes to the Information Law and Policy Centre’s own research in this area

File 20170503 4102 1v6ex7vThe ability of journalists to report without fear is under threat from mass surveillance and data retention. The Conversation

Released this week, my UNESCO report Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age shows that laws protecting journalists and sources globally are not keeping up with the challenges posed by indiscriminate data collection and the spill-over effects of anti-terrorism and national security legislation.

Examining legal changes to how sources are protected across 121 countries between 2007-2015, I found that calls, text messages, and emails made in the process of reporting are increasingly exposed. In particular, they can be caught up in the nets of law enforcement and national security agencies as they trawl for evidence of criminal activity and terrorism, and conduct leak investigations.

Source protection laws should be updated to protect the online communications of journalists and whistleblowers.

If we do not strengthen legal protections and limit the impact of surveillance and data retention, investigative journalism that relies on confidential sources will be difficult to sustain. Continue reading