Filippo Salustri in journal paper row

TROLL: Canadian academic, Filippo Salustri, has questioned the fact an academic journal has republished a post he made to the PHD Design newslist, which spread lies about another academic.
TROLL: Canadian academic, Fil Salustri, has questioned the fact an academic journal has republished a post he made to the PHD Design newslist, which spread lies about another academic.

Canadian academic, Filippo Salustri, has questioned the fact an academic journal has republished a post he made to the PHD Design newslist, which spread lies about another academic.

The journal paper in question was titled, “Transforming the UK Home Office into a Department for Homeland Security: Reflecting on an Interview with a Litigant Defending Against Online Retaliatory Feedback in the US” and published in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Filippo Salustri complained that the journal paper, composed by Internet trolling expert Jonathan Bishop, was not “valid.” Bishop, speaking about the incident, said that Filippo Salustri should not complain about the reposting of content he put in the public domain. “If Professor Salustri did not want posts he made to a public forum republished, then he should not have made them in the first place,” he said. “I did not defame him in any way, I just republished the defamatory remarks he made.

Professor Irmak Renda-Tanali is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “We have received a complaint from Professor Salustri and the issue is under investigation,” she said.

Google settles Internet trolling case

Google has settled the dispute between it and businessman, Daniel Hegglin, who brought legal action against the mere conduit search engine provider in the UK High Court.

Google’s representative, Antony White QC told the court: “Google has considerable sympathy for Mr Hegglin in what is an exceptional case of internet trolling in terms of its prominence and volume.
Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content.
It will however continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches applicable local laws.

Daniel Hegglin’s counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said that Google had made “significant efforts” to remove abusive comments from the search results it is a mere conduit of. He said: “Whilst I am not in a position to disclose the details, I am pleased to report that the parties have now settled the matter.
The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google hosted websites and from its search results.

RCT Chief Executive in ‘gagging’ row

DOESN'T MERRITT TWEETING: Steve Merrit, the CEO of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council objects to the public knowing how much he and other publicly funded civil servants are paid. Courtesy: Obtained from Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council's website.
DOESN’T MERRITT TWEETING: Steve Merrit, the CEO of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council objects to the public knowing how much he and other publicly funded civil servants are paid. Courtesy: Obtained from Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s website.

Steve Merritt, the Chief Executive of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, has been accused of trying to gag councillors from sharing information about his and other tax-payer funded civil servant’s salaries by email.

Councillor Mike Powell had an auto-forward feature set up, and it is alleged that following sharing the public information on staff salaries had this right removed.

The action comes in the way of false accounts being set up to parody cabinet members on the Council – an honour normally bestowed on more senior politicians.

When he was deputy chief executive, Steve Merritt, prior to being appointed to succeed Keith Griffiths as Chief Executive was paid £122,000 in redundancy payments – over 5 times the average salary.

As Councillor Mike Powell explains, being held to account for his takings from the public purse was not welcomed by Steve Merritt. “Someone has set up a Facebook and Twitter account under the name of RCT Twaddle and this person posted spread sheets containing a list of employee posts and salary grades within the Council,” he said. “A few weeks after these appeared I received a frankly insulting email from the Chief Executive, Steve Merritt, stating that he was aware that, as he put it ‘some of the information posted’ had been provided to me by the former Chief Executive back in November 2013.
He went on to say that he was ‘considering whether or not to commence a formal investigation into this data breach which would include reporting it to the appropriate regulatory authorities.
He asked for assurances from me that I had handled the information in accordance with the Members Code of Conduct and that it was not copied, used by, or disclosed to anyone else.

Football fury on Twitter

Twitter has been filled with severe criticism of Germany and the referee in the Germany v Portugal football match as part of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The giving of a red card when German player, Thomas Muller, dived to the ground when there was little contact with him and the Portugal player, Pepe, who made subsequent contact with Muller, led to negative reactions on Twitter.

Football fan and keen traveller, Matt Pickles said: “A modern day reason to hate Germany as a ‘sporting’ nation. Despicable, play-acting cheat.” John O’Sullivan said: “Pepe has put Portugal in all sorts…but muller what a clown” And Bryan “Pepes red card is UNACCEPTABLE, Muller is a little flopper but pepe needs to keep his mouth shut ”

Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, said during the game that if there were anything grossly offensive posted to Twitter about a player, little could be done to remove it. “Twitter’s report feature does not allow the censorship of any posts that the person reporting is not connected to,” he said. “So at present it is possible for any of the footballers to be trolled when they are on the pitch and there will be nothing they can do if they are trolled.
“The best think the players could do to prevent abuse while they are playing is to have their accounts managed by their public relations staff, who can ask for them to be deleted on their behalf.”

EU Court ‘breaking the law’ says expert

COURT OUT: Internet Trolling and Cyberlaw expert Jonathan Bishop says EU law protects Google. Courtesy: Steve Powderhill Photography
COURT OUT: Internet Trolling and Cyberlaw expert Jonathan Bishop says EU law protects Google. Courtesy: Steve Powderhill Photography

Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, who has a Master of Laws degree in European Union Law, says the Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision to censor entries in Google Search results breaks its own laws.

This week the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU or ECJ) ruled that the fact that Google allowed people to access websites about Spanish medic Mario Costeja Gonzalez was in breach of his rights.

Jonathan Bishop is editor of the book, ‘Examining the Concepts, Issues and Implications of Internet Trolling,’ with many research papers in the area of cyberlaw and says the CJEU got it wrong. “Articles 43 and 44 of the E-Commerce Directive says that Google as a service provider is a ‘mere conduit’ that ‘caches’ content, but does not control it,” he said. “Google have not deliberately collaborated with the publication of the material Mario Costeja Gonzalez wants to censor so they should not be expected to police the Internet.
“If Mario Costeja Gonzalez has any problem with the content of websites that Google indexes then he should take it up with that website, who under the law is the publisher of the content so Google should not be made responsible.”

Conservative MP David Davis is a former shadow home secretary. “The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use peoples personal information in any way they see fit is wrong, and can only happen because the legal framework in most states is still in the last century when it comes to property rights in personal information,” he said.

Bishop disagreed and said Google should take litigation through to the European Court of Human Rights. “The CJEU is the highest court in the European Union, but its decisions have no effect on the European Court of Human Rights,” he said. “If Google were to take their case to the ECtHR then I am confident that they would side with Google on the basis of freedom of expression” he continued. “The CJEU has a long established principle of respecting the decisions of the ECtHR, so they may then revise their decision if Google appealed the national decision on the grounds of human rights.

Neknominate parents ‘responsibility’

Parents must take responsibility for their children’s use of the Internet, an Internet trolling and gamification expert has said.

Jonathan Bishop, who is editor of the book, Gamification for Human Factors Integration: Social, Educational and Psychological Issues, was speaking in the wake of the Neknominate craze where a number of children have been caught up in the irresponsible drinking game. Nine-year-old Rhiannon Scully was one of the most recent young people to be affected, having to have her stomach pumped after taking alcohol from her parents’ drinks cabinet with the help of her sisters.

Parents have greater opportunity in this digital age to protect their children than they did when I was younger,” Bishop said. “With Internet security and parental control software, parents can restrict how often and to what extent their children can use the Internet.
It should not be for platforms like Facebook and Twitter to police their own networks, as what may be harmful for a child could be totally acceptable for an adult.
Parents are the best judge of what is suitable for their children and what is not, so learning how to use the different tools and techniques to protect their children and restrict their Internet use is better than doing nothing or banning their Internet use completely.

The mother of Rhiannon Scully disagrees. “The NekNomination videos should be banned to protect the children,” she said. “It is not appropriate for Facebook to have these videos on the site when children can access them, especially if people have died as a result. I think it is ridiculous.
In reality children as young as eight are on Facebook and they can see these videos which inspire them. Facebook should stop allowing them from being shared. As a parent it does worry us that they can see these things so easily.
While I try and monitor my daughter’s Facebook I can only delete things my daughter writes, not what she sees.

Defamation Act 2013 welcomed with caution

On New Years Day the Defamation Act 2013 will be coming in to force in England & Wales, to make it possible for writers of free speech, often critical of those whom wish to hide the truth, able to do so with a greater sense of security in exercising those rights.

The commencement of the Act means those being critiqued by others will not be able to have content about them removed from websites unless an order is granted from a court to prove the content actually caused serious harm to them.

Shailesh Vara is a Justice Minister in the UK Government “As a result of these new laws, anyone expressing views and engaging in public debate can do so in the knowledge that the law offers them stronger protection against unjust and unfair threats of legal action,” he said. “These laws coming into force represent the end of a long and hard-fought battle to ensure a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and people’s ability to protect their reputation.

Internet trolling expert and chief of a news corporation, Jonathan Bishop, says the Act has positives and negatives. “The coming into force (of the Defamation Act 2013) will be good for small news operations like Crocels News who have faced numerous unsubstantiated claims of defamation to maintain a critical service that one should expect in a democracy,” he said. “Dealing with threats of defamation has cost Crocels hundreds of pounds, which is something that should be shocking in what is supposed to be a free country.
The difficulty is now that people who genuinely have been defamed might not be able to get content removed from websites as all website providers have to do now is pass on to them the details of alleged defamers.
This will mean Internet trolling in the form of untrue comments will be less easy to tackle as people will have to go through an extensive court process to get content removed.
I would not be surprised if before long the UK Government introduced a new statutory instrument to curb the extent to which the new rights in the Defamation Act 2013 can be applied.


Public bodies seek medical data

It has been revealed that publicly funded bodies in the United Kingdom are seeking to access confidential records on people with medical conditions in terms of determining their rights to employment, tax credits, benefits claims and educational opportunities.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC) have requested the right to obtain access to confidential data on patients and students, leading to human rights campaigners saying such practices “should ring alarm bells.”

Minutes of meetings and other documents by DWP and UWIC show that the two bodies actively sought hospital and GP records on students with physical and mental impairments, but both Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Department for Work and Pensions have tried to defend this apparent abuse of power. DWP said the data would only be used for “research purposes” and that they would anonymise it “at the earliest possible opportunity“. UWIC on the other hand said the data was essential in determining whether students with undocumented medical conditions should be allowed to enrol at the institution. UWIC said that requesting medical records relating to students with medical conditions was necessary to “ensure that accurate and informed risk assessments can be carried out” and that such requests were “proportionate and reasonable” and “in accordance with the University’s policy.

ACCESS WANTED: Cardiff Metropolitan University is one of a number of public bodies requesting medical data from customers. Courtesy: Obtained from Wikipedia.
ACCESS WANTED: Cardiff Metropolitan University is one of a number of public bodies requesting medical data from customers. Courtesy: Obtained from Wikipedia.

Phil Booth is a coordinator with privacy campaign group medConfidential. “That government departments are already seeking to access highly sensitive patient information for non-medical purposes should be ringing alarm bells,” he said, adding that the actions could lead to people “withholding information or simply not seeking the care they need.” A DWP spokesman said use of the data was essential in order “to better understand the recovery journeys of people with a drug or alcohol dependency,” and that they “draw on all available information, ensuring that legal and ethical procedures are followed at all. Our plans were for the data to be anonymised at the earliest possible opportunity and only used for research purposes to understand the benefit and employment journeys of people in treatment.The DWP continues to work closely with organisations including Public Health England and drug and alcohol treatment providers to ensure our policies are based on the most robust evidence possible and we can help.”

A UWIC spokesman said that requesting medical records from students did not breach confidentiality. “It has been confirmed that staff working [at Cardiff Metropolitan University] are subject to the same codes of practice as healthcare workers in terms of the obligation of ensuring that patient confidentiality is maintained,” he said. Barry Wadeson is a Case Office at the Information Commissioners Office. “The DPA (Data Protection Act 1998) would not stop organisations requesting information from an individual, if it is required for a particular purpose,” he said. “Unless we have evidence to show that Cardiff Metropolitan University is processing personal information that is excessive for a particular purpose, it will be difficult for our office to progress (any further action).

Karen speaks on censorship

The Campaigns coordinator for the Liberal Democratic Party in Rhondda Cynon Taf has criticised the post-election censorship of council meetings by the Labour coalition of councillors on Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.

Karen Roberts is a former councillor on RCT Council, making alliances with Graig’s Bob Fox and Talbot Green’s Paul Baccara following falling out with the Plaid Cymru coalition that got her into power in Clydach, before her losing subsequent elections. Roberts criticises the way the Labour coalition of councillors has not kept its promises on broadcasting council meetings. “Having promised in their manifesto that they would broadcast council meetings on the web they have now back tracked on that, as indeed on so many of their pre-election promises,” she said. “Presumably they do not want the general public to see the disgraceful way in which they behave; from that point of view they are quite happy to have the main HQ in Clydach Vale.
Now don’t get me wrong, Clydach is my home, I think it is wonderful, but the industrial estate which houses the Council Chamber is not on a bus route and hardly the most accessible of places.

OUTSPOKEN: The former Pontypridd MP, Kim Howells. Courtesy: Wikipedia
OUTSPOKEN: Former Pontypridd MP, Kim Howells said he should have tried to control the Labour Party more when he was in power. Courtesy: Wikimedia Foundation

The news comes as retired Pontypridd MP Kim Howells speaks out on revelations of smear campaigns whilst the Labour Party was in power at Westminster. The MP, who regularly criticises the epidemic in-fighting in the Labour Party because of the effect it has on Labour representatives getting elected, believes he should have done more to control it. “I always loathed that kind of party infighting, and the kind of shenanigans that go on in those circles, and stayed away from it,” he said. “I suspect people like me should have been doing more.

The Labour Party is known for its deep divisions, such as New Labour v Old Labour, which has given rise to factions like Progressives influenced by Blairism, as well as grassroots left-wing movements like LabourList. Popular phrases like “what it said behind closed doors stays being closed doors,” “divided parties lose elections,” and “how do we get our message over to the public” dominate the Labour Party’s censorship of free speech and debate. On councils where Labour coalitions have majorities, secret meetings are regularly held to fix the votes at council meetings, regardless of the merits of arguments made on the night. At party conferences the Labour Party chairs regularly call to the mic those who are “wearing a red scarf,” who in fact are individuals who have been planted to ask a question or make a statements that the Labour Party hierarchy has already approved.

As Karen Roberts says, such policies are not appropriate for current times. “There is no sign of the local party on Twitter or Facebook – a few individual councillors have accounts, but they do not use them to engage with the general public,” she said. “They don’t enter into discussion in any groups or in any local forums.
In a world which is increasingly reliant on social media as a means of communication the Labour party don’t seem to engage with that either.  
There is a County Council website of course, which is all too often overly party political, but that is run by one of the myriad of public relations staff. 
There is a Council Twitter feed which kindly kept us all up to date with the Wimbledon news through much of June.