Daily Mail in love with Human Rights Act

Back in 2007, Paul Dacre – editor of the Daily Mail – told a House of Lords Select Committee “in the editorial line and in terms of the leader column, we are consistently against the Human Rights Act.” I think we’ll all agree that Dacre has been true to his word – the paper’s opposition has been remorseless and unyielding ever since.

Apart, that is, from when it wants to bully the Leveson Inquiry – and those witnesses who suspect (quite rightly) that they will be hunted down for all eternity if they testify against the tabloid press. Then human rights – for newspapers, at least – are fine and dandy:

Associated Newspapers is seeking a judicial review of Lord Justice Leveson’s decision to allow witnesses including journalists to give anonymous evidence to his inquiry into media standards.

The Daily Mail publisher wants to reverse a decision Leveson made following approaches from a number of individuals who claimed they wanted to give evidence anonymously without fear of reprisal.

In a claim form issued to the high court, Associated cites four legal reasons to overturn the anonymity ruling.

The publisher said it “fails to give effect to the principle of open justice”; that it would “contravene the principles of natural justice”; and that it infringes the rights of the newspaper group and others under article 10 of the Human Rights Act, which gives the right to free expression. It also argues that Leveson fails to identify a public interest to justify his decision.

Good, also, to see the Mail’s owners ticking off Leveson for not acting in the public interest – which Dacre defines as the freedom for newspapers to “publish what they believe is best for their markets” and “the freedom to identify those who have offended public standards of decency… and hold the transgressors up to public condemnation.”

So let us all join in defending Dacre’s human right to pillory us miserable sinners. After all, it’s good for us and it sells newspapers.

Baroness Ashton to resign? (updated)

And for the EU’s latest foreign policy disaster (and one that reflects enormously badly on Gordon Brown if the story is true), the Telegraph claims that Baroness Ashton is on the brink of resigning after only months in her job:

“Every day is an uphill struggle,” said a European Commission official. “No one predicts she can stay five years, not even she.”

Lady Ashton has come under fire from powerful countries led by France, for allowing the Commission to seize too much control of a new EU diplomatic service that she is building from scratch.

Her lack of political authority has been blamed for a failure to stamp out bureaucratic Brussels in-fighting over who will control the new European External Action Service, with 7,000 diplomats manning over 130 embassies around the world.

Bitter turf wars over budgets and senior posts mean the diplomatic corps will be delayed, a situation that has angered governments and embarrassed the EU on the global stage.

Following one recent row, she allegedly threatened to walk out of her job and had to be talked out of resigning on the spot by diplomats and officials.

Of course, this may be wishful thinking by the Telegraph, but it’s another shocking misstep if true…

Update: And the plot thickens. According to the Daily Mail, Peter Mandelson is floating the resignation rumours because he expects to be Foreign Secretary and needs to find a job for David Miliband.

An Ashton aide told the MailOnline the report had ‘Mandelson’s fingerprints all over it.’ Mandelson wants to force Ashton to resign and hand over the EU job to David Miliband, the source said.

Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, was offered Ashton’s job last year but refused it, reportedly because he didn’t want to spend ‘years on a plane’.

But does Mandelson really expect Labour to form the next government? And how could he push Ashton out between now and Gordon Brown naming his cabinet after the election?

Daily Mail ‘shops war hero

Just to press on with the Daily Mail vendetta for a tad longer, the superb Will Tooke has caught the ‘newspaper’ in another piece of fakery. This time, taking liberties with James McKie, the war hero who threw a grenade back at the Taliban.

I saw the grenade come over hit Captain Kerr on the back of his body armour and land between me and him, about a foot away from me, right next to him.

Instinctively, Captain Kerr dived, tried to get away from the grenade, but there wasn’t a lot of room. He ended up on top of me, away from the grenade.

I dived forward, picked up the grenade and threw it off the roof. It detonated half way down in the alley, two feet away from us, with most of the frag going into the wall…

When I saw the grenade there, I thought, I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

(Do watch the whole interview with McKie – it’s quite extraordinary.)

A story that’s right up the Mail’s Straße but – as Tooke points out – there was a catch:

The problem was, the [only] picture was taken when all the action was over, and it seems [it] just wasn’t dramatic enough for the Daily Mail to match the story of intense bravery. If only there was a picture of Rifleman McKie doing the sort of high octane daring do you see in war movies, you know, like that film The Hurt Locker that just won a load of Oscars. Gosh, that would be perfect.

So what did the Mail do? They took this photo of McKie:

James McKie - war hero

…purloined this one from the Hurt Locker (which pops up in Google image search)…

The Hurt Locker - Oscar winner

…and photoshopped the two together to make this doozy…

War Hero + Oscar Winner = Another Daily Mail lie

Journalism – it’s easy. If you’re shameless.

Daily Mail lies about Facebook (updated x7)

[Important updates below – Facebook says the Daily Mail knew its story was untrue, but printed it anyway. Legal action is promised. The BBC has now picked up on Global Dashboard’s story. Journalism.co.uk has a piece as well. Guardian has followed our lead too. Mashable. Belle de Jour chips in.]

In the early hours of this morning, the Daily Mail published an astonishing attack on Facebook under the title I posed as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook. What followed will sicken you.”

Here’s the opener:

Even after 15 years in child protection, I was shocked by what I encountered when I spent just five minutes on Facebook posing as a 14-year-old girl. Within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me.

I was deluged by strangers asking stomach-churning questions about my sexual experience. I was pressured to meet men with whom I’d never before communicated.

So I wasn’t surprised that a vulnerable teenager, Ashleigh Hall, was groomed on Facebook before being brutally raped and killed.

The article is written by Mark Williams-Thomas. Here’s his biog:

Mark is a former police detective who has far-reaching experience of working at the centre of high profile investigations. During Mark’s police service, he specialised in child protection and major crime and he is renowned throughout the UK’s police forces as well as the national media for his expertise in these areas.

It’s an odd story. Facebook isn’t really a chat site – and it’s certainly not Chatroulette, where there are plenty of men ready and waiting to jack off in front of you (sfw). Presumably Williams-Thomas set his privacy settings to zero and befriended loads of strangers. But how did those strangers find him (her) so quickly?

Fast forward twelve hours and the online version of Williams-Thomas’s article has undergone some editing. New title: I posed as a girl of 14 online. What followed will sicken you. And new text, with Facebook replaced with an unnamed ‘social networking site’.

Even after 15 years in child protection, I was shocked by what I encountered when I spent just five minutes on a social networking site posing as a 14-year-old girl. Within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me.

The url, though, has not been changed: I-posed-girl-14-Facebook-What-followed-sicken-you.html [This url was subsequently set to redirect to a new one – 12/03/2010]

So what gives? If it was Facebook that Williams-Thomas was using, then why turn so coy? And if it wasn’t, how on earth could the Mail have pretended it was?

Update: Via Twitter, I asked Williams-Thomas for clarification. Here’s his reply:

So why was Facebook named in the first place?

Update 2: Apparently the story – with Facebook named – was a front page splash in the print edition, and then a double page spread inside.

Update 3: Just had a call from Facebook – they’re incandescent and say that:

  • Williams-Thomas claims that he was 100% clear that his social network experiment had not involved Facebook.
  • When the Mail sent him a first draft of the story with Facebook named, he asked for them to make a correction.
  • Even so, they went ahead and published a story their own expert had warned them was untrue.

When Facebook protested, the Mail corrected the online story, but not the printed version, which had already hit the news stands. Their online retraction failed to include any apology or explanation of their mistake.

Facebook says that legal action against the Mail is pending. What an extraordinary piece of negligence and/or malice from the paper!

Update 4: The Mail appended a fairly mealy mouthed correction last night:

In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly stated that the criminologist had conducted an experiment into social networking sites by posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook with the result that he quickly attracted sexually motivated messages. In fact he had used a different social networking site for this exercise. We are happy to set the record straight.

Will they be happy to pay damages to Facebook too? Another version here, which begins: “In an article by a criminologist yesterday, we wrongly stated…” – half-maintaining the fiction that Williams-Thomas actually wrote the piece…

Update 5: From last year, another great Daily Mail headline: “How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer.”

Update 6: Instead of retreating to lick her wounds, Mail journo, Laura Topham has doubled down with another article on Internet safety – again using the Facebook killer as a hook and with the same oddly prurient image from yesterday’s story.

Before her Facebook howler, Topham’s main claim to fame was dating 100 men and writing about it, outing Belle de Jour [or not – see Belle’s comment], and running up huge amounts of debt because the government inveigled her into taking out a student loan.

Her big break in journalism came in 2005 when she shafted David Blunkett.

Update 7: PC Pro quotes Facebook’s spokeswoman as challenging the Daily Mail to name the social networking platform that is really to blame. I was given exactly the same message. Facebook think it knows which service Williams-Thomas used and is desperate for one of its competitors to get shafted.

A representative of Williams-Thomas justifies anonymity thus: “The reason he does not want to [name the service] is because he does not want there to be another opening for paedophiles to head straight for.” Hmm. Maybe.