Blogs, the law and the spartacus effect

Mick has been assessing the impact on blogging’s UK profile by the Prescott affair. Mick (a victim of suing threats) argues that, while a blogger has no more legal protection than a journalist nor a large media company to pay the bills, bloggers have two matters in their favour. Their ‘comparable’ poverty reduces the financial incentive/reward for suing and the “No I’m Spartacus” effect, blogdom uniting when one of its number is threatened with legal action by a prominent person. Newly announced Labour leadership candidate, John McDonnell, is presently experiencing the Spartacus effect. He threatened a Labour researcher with legal and disciplinary action for a mild blog criticism of his office hours policy. Guido has highlighted the story and the comment on his site so the criticsm has just gone from an audience of a few dozen to twenty-five thousand. However, Mick urges caution for bloggers so that the greater invulnerability doesn’t lead to abuse and a loss of credibility

  • Miss Fitz

    Am I missing a point here? Whether or not the guy was a blogger, he was reporting factual information, in quite a non-threatening way I would say, as well.

    What was the basis for threatening legal action? I think the wrong person is being held account here- he was posing legitimte questions in a public forum about the public opening hours of a public representative.

    If I’ve read this wrong, please do tell

  • Rory

    I can’t for the life of me access what Kerron Cross actually said on his blog, neither via Fair Deal above nor Guido who promises Now it will be read [below] by some 25,000 people today. I cannot find anything other than a report of some innocuous ansaphone message from John McDonnell’s office. Surely that can’t be it?

    What the hell did he actually say, please? i do hope everyone is not now playing some coy form of burlesque striptease in order to avoid attention from the censoring authorities.

  • fair_deal

    Missfitz and rory

    He threatened legal and disciplinary action purely about that comment about the ansaphone message.

  • Green Ink

    This is from Guido’s blog and I’m assuming is verbatim:

    Interesting message on John McDonnell MP’s Westminster office answerphone at the moment, which goes something like this:

    “You are through to John McDonnell’s office, this is a very busy office, so in the interests of serving our constituents this office is closed for business on Wednesdays, and we only accept messages between 10am to 1pm Monday to Thursday.”

    Obviously that’s messages between 10am to 1pm Monday to Thursday, except for Wednesdays, I presume.

    So from this I take it that John McDonnell’s office is open 3 hours a day, 3 days a week.

    I bet he is grateful for that 10,847 majority. He may need it.

  • Rory

    Yes, I read that but it seemed so innocuous that I thought this couldn’t possibly be the basis for a heavyhanded complaint. Maybe collar the bloke and give a bit of verbal “See here, you little shit…” kinda thing, but threats of legal and disciplinary action? I’m lost. All the more so because I had scored up McDonnell in my book and recall some good work (by my lights anyway) from him in the past and recently. I have e-mailed him and asked him to comment.

    But it does raise an issue about bloggers and gagging through heavy handed legal threats. On the face of it, in this instance, my instinct would be to retort “Go on then, big boy, do your worst” but then I am not in full possession of the facts and Kerran Cross is not Rory, which I suppose relieves him (and John McDonnell) no end.

  • Miss Fitz

    Yeah, I got that bit, but my feeling now is that this was a gross over reaction on all sides. I am not trying to get into an argument with you (I always lose), but if you are trying to make the point that bloggers ostensibly have less to lose in such an argument, surely your argument fails because Kerran Cross did not let this go to its logical conclusion.

    Its not bravado, but if I had blogged someones opening hours, based on their own answer machine message, I would allowed them to sue me. I wouldnt have worried about costs, as this is a transparent/ non existetent argument and I bet it would a never got to court

  • The bonfire ornament was forced to admit that his actual readership that day was 10,691, nowhere near the 25 thousand he boasted before. Lobster Blogster can help with one or two other pointers here too, should you care to visit 🙂

  • Lobster Blogster

    [a href=””]link broke above[/a]

  • Just to be clear – yes, that was the full post in it’s totality. And no I didn’t fancy contesting legal action even though the post was entirely factually accurate.

    Perhaps I am just a low paid coward, but contesting legal action is a route I’d rather not have to go down if at all avoidable!