Prosecution by newspaper? What’s McAlpine playing at?

McAlpine claims his lawyers have the names of 10,000 Twitterati** who tweeted or retweeted about him and the paedo allegations (1,000 tweets, 9,000 RTs). The suggestion has been made, in the press, that the plebs, to avoid prosecution, make a £100 donation to a children’s charity while celebs will be dealt with more harshly – presumably because there is more money to be screwed out of them.

**Unlikely. They might have their screen names, it’ll take court orders to get the real names for those who tweet anonymously, which is likely to be the majority.

Still no suggestion, though, of any action against the police, who were the ones, by all accounts, to release his name in this context in the first place.

So, if you tweeted, then you know you did – your call as to how you respond, but this “pay £100 to charity or else” approach smacks of coerced self-incrimination.

Personally, I didn’t tweet about McAlpine. I try to avoid libelling anybody, not just him (it is perfectly possible to be highly critical without being libellous). I don’t believe I retweeted anything, either, but therein lies a problem.

If, like me, you have a very busy timeline, as I mentioned in a previous post, it is extremely easy, when retweeting, to RT the wrong tweet.

At busy times, my timeline, and doubtless that of others, moves so fast it’s barely legible, and it’s perfectly possible, when clicking something to RT that between the intention and the click an entirely different tweet moves under your cursor. Mostly, I spot these and correct them, but if that coincides with a sudden burst of activity, it’s easy for an incorrect RT to be carried out of sight before I notice.

And if that happens to me it can happen to anybody. By the law of averages, that will have happened with some of the McAlpine RTs

So, while McAlpine might well feel that his case is cut and dried against original tweeters, for retweeters I still feel there is a need for him to prove that the RT was, in fact, deliberate, which, on a system in which the capacity for making accidental RTs is innate, is impossible.

Another thought – does this list of 10,000 people exist? If so, why aren’t “offenders” being notified, instead of having to learn from newspaper articles that they can expiate their “guilt” by making a donation to charity – a donation which would, in fact, be a tacit admission of guilt?

“We know who you are, pay up or else” is blackmail. If you know who these people are, prove it.

There are rules to this game, and “prosecution by newspaper” most certainly isn’t one of them. If McAlpine gets away with this it will set an horrendous precedent – the world and his wife will jump on the bandwagon with all manner of spurious claims against Twitterati. And, doubtless, bloggers will find themselves in the firing line too.

And, of course, if people do make donations to charity, I see nothing to stop the lawyers screaming “Gotcha!” and prosecuting anyway.

Court is the only place where guilt might be determined – telling people they have to incriminate themselves by making donations to charity bypasses that system and is, frankly, despicable.

Doubtless that would save McAlpine a shed-load of money – prosecuting 10,000 people doesn’t come cheap – but that’s not the point.

Justice is the point.

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2 thoughts on “Prosecution by newspaper? What’s McAlpine playing at?

  1. I cannot understand how this can be made to happen. For the life of me, how the heck did the UK get like this? Innocent until proven is the law for goodness sake! Let anyone prove it and then announce they are guilty. Prove it by sending letters and starting prosecuting the “guilty”. What a conman – and of course, he can get away with it as he’s “innocent” of any wrongdoing – well I beg to differ, he’s guilty of blackmail in this affair!

  2. Ron

    I commented on your other article and missed this one. I agree 100% with what you have said about the way this litigation has been played out in the media and potential defendants ‘invited’ to settle. I was involved in the Smith V ADVFN libel case. In that case the claimant and his solicitors did something very similar (threats, pressure and demands, use of media) and three defendants paid £20,000 between them. The other 60 or so potential defendants stood firm and defeated him in court. The ‘libels’ in that case included one where one blogger told the claimant to ‘grow up’ in an argument involving these 60 individuals.

    Amazingly people took the above case seriously at the time – just the same as the majority are with this at the moment. The chill of libel I guess. Give it a couple of weeks though. By then we should see a few newspaper editors and other commentators suddenly realise what is actually happening and start to think this through. The rest of the herd will then follow.

    I think the public backlash against further litigation when it comes will be similar to that which followed after Watchdog exposed the grubby law firms which were caught speculative invoicing alleged file sharers on mass a few years ago. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and Judge Birss then hauled the idiots over the coals.

    This whole episode is very worrying and if history repeats itself, the folks who may come out worse in all this could well be RMPI Solicitors and Mr Reid.

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