Information Wants to be Friended

This week has been super-injunction week in the UK media. What’s a super-injunction? Well, in the past, whenever a celeb/important personage discovered that they (or certain parts of their anatomy) were about to feature prominently in a media story, they’d rush to court and get an injunction preventing publication of the story.

But what the injunction didn’t, and couldn’t, do was prevent the media from mentioning the injunction. Sometimes this resulted in even worse publicity for the celeb as people filled in the blanks, speculating what the story might have been, and the breed of the goat involved.

And then there’s the House of Commons – Members of Parliament have a degree of immunity when it comes to speaking within the House. So if an MP decides to speak out on the subject, they can reveal the facts even if an injunction says they can’t. And, as all speeches in the House are published by Hansard – whatever their content – the speech enters the public domain, and the media are then allowed to quote it.

All this made it difficult for the poor celebs and important personages of the corrupt persuasion. Until along came … the super-injunction. This was an injunction that not only prevented publication; it prevented anyone from even mentioning that the injunction existed. No one could even publish the name of the person involved. The media would know there were stories circulating, but would be prevented from dropping the smallest hint.

Some believe this protection supersedes the right of parliamentary privilege. Attempts by MP, John Hammond, to bring up the subject of super-injunctions, were recently quashed by the Speaker.

Cue Twitter. Last week someone opened a Twitter account and posted a list of people taking out super-injunctions and what they were trying to cover up.

I find it interesting that it was a Twitter account. It wasn’t a brave blogger, it wasn’t someone writing on someone’s facebook wall. It was someone using Twitter. And it went viral within hours.

What a great story. Information wanting to be free. The Internet leading the way, the media running with the story once it reaches the public domain…

Except … not all the stories posted on the Twitter account were true. Some were made up. And if your name’s Jemima Khan and you’ve just been accused of having an affair with Jeremy Clarkson – and tens of millions of people have read about it – you might not react that well.

This has always been the problem with the internet. It’s a brilliant source of information, as long as you realise that not all that information is vetted or accurate.

I was reminded of a story – The Sleeper and the Flame – which I wrote back in 1993. The story was about a well-connected serial killer who used a D-notice (the 1990s version of an injunction) to prevent the hero from exposing him. The hero circumvented the D-notice by posting his evidence on computer bulletin boards (this was early pre-internet days) and bulk-mailing faxes (this was also pre-spam) and sticking posters at prominent sites wherever people gathered or passed by in numbers.

It’s a tactic that so many people seem to ignore. How many films have you seen where the hero has important information on a disk or a memory stick or a picture … and they spend most of the film trying to deliver it to the right person whilst being repeatedly chased and shot at. I always want to scream at them – upload the information! Send it to everyone and his dog. Once the information is out there, no one has a reason to kill you.

Except maybe Jemima Khan.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .

Out Now! What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.

Coming Soon! Shift, Medium Dead, An Unsafe Pair of Hands

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Information Wants to be Friended — 1 Comment

  1. Not a new concept — as I recall, in STARS MY DESTINATION the hero foiled his opponents by distributing an industrial secret to the world.