Saturday, 17 October 2009

Corrupt Firms Can't Silence The Internet

I have always been against any regulation being imposed on the Internet to try and control it. Of course this approach also leaves untouched some abhorrent sites but that's unfortunately the cost to continue with the anarchic approach. Governments, celebrities and big business hate it because it's a source of media that they can't control which means bloggers and Tweeters are not held by the same rules as the mainstream media, as was shown with amazing effect during the Trafigura affair this week.
Lawyers, Carter-Ruck, acting for oil trading company, Trafigura, were forced to abandoned attempts to stop the British press running a story about the fatal dumping of toxic waste in west Africa by the company.
The case began with the dumping of 500 tons of the waste in a landfill site in the Ivory Coast in August 2006.
Official estimates said 15 people were killed and tens of thousands left ill as a result. Trafigura denied any deaths took place but offered £950 to each of 31,000 people affected, without accepting liability.
A report written soon after the initial incident found based on the "limited" information to which it had been given access - the waste was capable of causing severe damage to human health.
When Trafigura learned that The Guardian newspaper was about to publish an article based on the report, the firms lawyers issued a 'super-injunction' blocking it.
They then tried to stop the British media from revealing that an MP had tabled a question relating to the report.
Stopped in their tracks, the Guardian then cleverly wrote a front page piece on how they could not write what they had planned to, due to an injunction from an oil company concerning an MP's question due to be asked in Parliament that day.
A quick scan of the MP's questions that had been tabled and soon Bloggers and Tweeters were posting and tweeting about to such an extent that it made the injunction useless.
Users posted so many comments and posts about Trafigura and the parliamentary question that the issue soon became top of Twitters list of popular topics.
In a statement, the lawyers agreed to drop the injunction stating that "there is no longer any purpose in the injunction remaining in place".
Proof of the power for good of the Internet coupled with a strong sense of injustice from the Internet users in battling corrupt firms and morally corrupt lawyers.
Now that it is out in the open, I'd like to see the oil company closed down for such a flagrant case of toxic pollution, it's assets sold off to properly compensate the people of the Ivory Coast and those involved tried for murder.


Cody Bones said...

Lucy, interesting post, and it got me to thinking (no small feat there). As a self described hard core leftist, do you think that it is possible for any left wing government (we'll get to right wing later) and a FREE press to coexist? In my 43 years of life, I have never seen it happen, and doubt sincerely that it could. What are your thoughts?

Lucy said...

By free press i guess you mean for the media to operate without influence from the Government.

It was a badly kept secret that the Labour Party had an unspoken deal with the Murdoch press (the largest selling daily and sunday papers) that they would give them 'exclusives' and first notice on any Government policy as long as they continued to get favourable coverage which of course means repeating the Government line on policy and not contesting it too much. As the Murdoch press has ditched Labour and shifted its support to the Tories, it doesn't take a genuis to work out that the same sort of deal has been worked out with them and has gone on for decades across the media.

Governments, regardless of it being left or right, will always look for opportunities to coerce the media by spin (10% tax cut),
lies (Iraq) or threats (BBC Dr Kelly suicide).

On top of that you also have press owners with an agenda and nobody should believe for a second that they don't have influence on how something is reported upon.

ALl this means no, i don't think there will ever be a 'free' press under a left wing Government because they will play the game the same as anyone else.

Cheezy said...

"It was a badly kept secret that the Labour Party had an unspoken deal with the Murdoch press..."

Erm, you're not suggesting that Britain has had a left-wing government these past dozen years, though, are you Lucy? By certain measurements this lot have been cosier with the big-biz establishment than Thatcher ever was...

Anyway, bottom line is I agree with both of you. A hardcore ideological government, of the left wing or the right wing, will always use covert means (or, if they're particularly shameless and/or confident, overt ones) to stifle a free press.