Category Archives: Defamation

Free speech all the way until I sue you

An interesting remark being retweeted on twitter:

@mumbletwits Anyone who thunders about absolute free speech should promise to never avail themselves of libel/defo laws.

Not that it would be legally binding. But I like to think that such a hypocrite, most particularly one with access to a powerful soapbox, would eventually find themselves in court having their own words – or, even better, the precedent they’d sought in their own earlier defamation case – thrown back at them, with devastating results.

Anyone who’s been watching the media landscape for the last decade or so will have seen some extraordinary things. People with entire national broadsheets at their disposal threatening to sue people who’ve tweeted remarks made by others. We’ve seen media companies themselves issuing proceedings on completely the opposite side from which you’d expect to find guardians of free speech. We’ve seen journalists whose entire business is using their pulpit to attack others, often in the most personal and misleading ways possible, having their lawyers demand salve for their own wounded feelings.

It’s all a bit silly, isn’t it? The powerful with all these outlets at their command demanding money and compensation from critics via the courts for their hurt feelings? Is robust speech to be, in practice, all one way – the privilege of the powerful at the expense of the ordinary person?