Just as I was busy with with the sex work debate posts, our hard working newshounds managed to sniff themselves out another sex scandal. Now, I’m opposed to media intrusion of private lives. I’m baffled by the idea of “sex scandals” or the concept that sex can be news. And I’m against the news media outing people for things which are private or aren’t important.
But in this case, the media weren’t allowed to out the two people involved (who are close to the Prime Minister) because of libel laws. They can’t even put it on the internet because an Australian case sets a precedent that it’s still libel if the media put the information anywhere a Brit might see it. This appears to be a trend towards an international law of the internet, which I previously said we need to ensure fairness sand clarity of law.
Let’s back up a bit. The definition of libel or defamation differs between jurisdictions, but it usually means something untrue which damages your reputation. If it’s true, how can it be libel? This isn’t the first case in which libel was alleged for true events which has been brought. But I personally do not think that the one case that I know to have been brought will succeed, because it’s outing but not libel. I don’t think outing people should be actionable but even if it is, it shouldn’t be classified as libel.
If the media aren’t allowed to out people then that doesn’t bode well for free speech.
It also doesn’t make any sense – if two lovers can’t be outed for, um, being lovers (?) (you see why sex scandals don’t make sense as a thing) then why is Eamon Dillon allowed to out a woman for working in the sex industry? The media even created a YouTube video calling her “Scary Poppins” because she had three jobs – nanny, cleaner and sex worker. And never mind all the other things the media outs people for – being transgender, committing minor crimes, anonymous blogging. While my pseudo-anonymity isn’t important to me, I’d still rather be outed in the national news for shagging some dude (something I’d be proud or indifferent about) than for being Slutocrat (I feel safer and it’s easier for me to express myself when my identity isn’t known). So why aren’t these people protected by libel laws?
I always used to say that people who commit minor crimes or do something non-harmful or private (like sex scandals or writing anonymously) shouldn’t be outed. That there should be a law against the media outing them. The obvious counter-argument is that such a law might protect bad people, and I now completely accept this argument. We can’t have the laws that I wanted. So, why do we now – as far as I can tell – actually have this law that I wished for? This law that protects priveleged and important people but that doesn’t protect ordinary joes like “Scary Poppins” or Zoe Margolis or teens who commit one crime in their life? I think I’d rather have the blanket law I wanted – at least we’d all be protected, not just the priveleged friends of David Cameron.
In England, libel laws might be changed. The current laws are seen as a way for NGOs and corporations to bully and silence ordinary members of the public. As libel cases are very expensive to defend, bringing suits – even suits that they’ll lose- is an easy way for the rich to harass the not so rich.
On a personal note, libel laws do not protect people from libel by the authorities. Professionals such as teachers, social workers, police, psychologists and other staff can get away with it. Those of you who follow me on Twitter might remember that on the 12th I tweeted that I’d be “heading for the city of my birth” to “chase up libels against me” or something along those lines. Because libel laws don’t protect you very well and because libel cases are so expensive, I’m hoping to sue under a ground which isn’t libel.
(I can’t be any more specific about any of this in case I’m sued for libel myself! If outing is libel then I can’t out them, can I?) See what I mean about free speech – you’ve all got a right to know what this local authority did. They acted in their professional capacity. But I can’t tell you. So you’ll never know. It’s in the public interest for you to know but sorry peeps, I’m not loaded enough to be blase about getting sued.
After what I’ve seen, I’d recommend that you treat subject access requests in the same way you would STI tests – a key component of self-care that should be tested regularly.
But enough whinging – in reality I’ve got a lot to thank them for. Without their libels against me, I wouldn’t have created this blog.
So here’s to you, you evil, lying, oppressing bitches. You’re the creators of Slutocrat. Now ain’t that something to be proud of?