Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Why Richard Hillgrove is an idiot

Richard Hillgrove may have the most idiotic opinion on the Twitter and Ryan Giggs story I've read yet. It is one of the worst thought-out and moronic articles I've read in a long time.

First, let me be clear about a number of things:
  1. I'm a Man Utd fan, so bashing Ryan Giggs is not something I'm going to get excited about
  2. I like the Guardian, in general, I think they've been one of the best adopters of Social Media in the newspaper sector
  3. I have absolutely no interest in celebrity gossip, who shags who etc.
Ok, so what's my issue with Hillgrove's article? Well he obviously has no idea about Twitter or the law. Apart from that he's on perfectly solid ground!

He argues that Twitter is operating outside of the law by allowing users to talk about issues that newspapers are not. Pardon my French, but this is bull crap. It is complete loose-stool-water. Arse-gravy of the very worst kind. (Hat-tip to Stephen Fry)

Let us take the issue of whether Twitter is even subject to UK laws. It is based in America. Yes it has just (and I do mean, just, as in the last day or so) hired a UK member of staff, but the company operates out of the US.The US is a country that takes freedom of speech seriously. They even have a law that protects their companies, specifically websites, from being subject to laws in other countries that suppress freedom of speech.

And for those of you unaware, that's what a super-injunction is. A suppression of freedom of speech. Yes it “only” applies to the mainstream media, but why that's deemed to be ok, I'm really not sure.

Ok, so jurisdiction is one issue. The second is that Twitter is not responsible for what people communicate on it. Saying that they are is like saying that mobile phone networks are responsible for what people say in their phone calls. It is nonsense.

Next Hillgrove tries to offset the idea of Freedom of Speech with Privacy. I'm sorry, but the two are not polar opposites and trying to claim that they are is simple scaremongering. This is not an invasion of Ryan Giggs privacy. He is trying to suppress people's voices because he doesn't like what they are saying. Twitter (and whoever first published his name) have not invaded his privacy. His “privacy” was broken by Imogen Thomas, not Twitter. Twitter was just the mechanism for broadcasting this information.

I actually laughed out loud at Hillgrove's next statement - “unless we want an anarchistic society, Facebook and Twitter must be reeled in”. Is he serious? I'm beginning to wonder if this is a comedy piece. Or maybe just trolling for angry comments. Yes, unless we suspend Free Speech, we'll descend into anarchy. It's obvious. Ahem.

Then he wants all comments on Twitter to be time-delayed to allow for “checking”? By whom? Honestly? Maybe we should all employ censors to walk around with us and “check” what we intend to say before we say it? And who gets to decide what can and can't be broadcast? Honestly, this article just gets more and more farcical by the minute.

At this point I'd given up. When I re-read the piece this morning I saw the final paragraph. “We have to get some sort of international arbitration set-up”. Yep, Richard Hillgrove can chair it. Colonel Gaddafi and Kim Jong-Il can be the other members of the first council as they are pioneers in this kind of suppression. We can definitely make use of their expertise (although whether they have a view on Ryan Giggs' extra-marital activities remains to be seen).

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