Daily Mail threatens media blogger with libel action over 2 year old article

Kevin Arscott of the ‘Angry Mob‘ blog is a reasonably well-known figure in the British blogosphere, one of several bloggers who specialise in tracking and exposing some of the worst excesses of tabloid and mid-market national titles, including The Sun, Daily Express and, of course, Daily Mail.

This morning, a bit of a kerfuffle has broken out on Twitter after Kevin received a nastygram from the Daily Mail’s lawyers threatening him with a libel action if he didn’t remove a two-year old post from his blog. For the time being, Kevin’s has to take down the post, but it can still be read in full via Google’s cache and on Freezepage.

Before we get to the article itself, which I don’t believe is libellous, its worth reviewing the text of the letter that’s been sent to Kevin:

Dear Sirs

www.uponnothing.co.uk (“the Website”)

We act for Associated Newspapers Ltd.

That’s the Daily Mail’s parent company.

Our client is a world-famous media organization which, amongst other things, publishes a range of well-known newspapers and periodicals including the Daily Mail, edited by Paul Dacre.

As Kevin, and just about everyone else knows who and what the Daily Mail are, this amounts to nothing more than a bit of lawyerly willy-waving the purpose of which seems to be nothing more than to impress on Kevin that he’s up against a company that has shitloads of money to throw at the legal intimidation of anyone they don’t much like.

We understand that you host the Website. The IP address is [removed]

Not exactly – Kevin owns the blog, but it’s actually hosted on a shared server along with 295 other websites, so it seems safe to say that what Kevin has actually received is a threat intended from hosting provider.

[Oops – turns out it was sent to Kevin’s hosting company, who passed it on to him]

It has come to our client’s attention that a page on the website at http://www.angrymob.uponnothing.co.uk/home/43-somethingmademeangry/805-paul-dacre-must-die is being used to publish material which is seriously abusive and defamatory of Mr Dacre.

We’ll come to this in a minute, but as a matter of opinion I doubt very much that Paul Dacre must be overly concerned about any abusive remarks made by Kevin given his reputation for verbally abusing his employees which, according to Nick Davies, in his book Flat Earth News, has led to his own staff giving the paper’s daily editorial meeting the name ‘The Vagina Monologues’ as a result of Dacre’s habit of calling everyone a cunt.

Please take this communication as formal notice of this defamatory and abusive publication.

Now a rather important legal point.

When giving a notice preparatory to action in an alleged defamation case, the complainant – in this case Dacre/Daily Mail – is required to specify precisely which statements they consider to be defamatory. A general claim which does not specify which statements they intend to treated as defamatory is just not good enough, not even for an attempted take down notice targeting a hosting provider, which is what this letter appears to be.

What we have, therefore, is not a genuine claim – in the sense of it following the correct legal format – but rather a naked attempt to intimidate Kevin, or perhaps his hosting company, with a non-specific threat of expensive litigation.

In short, a rather naked attempt to bully Kevin into removing the article based on a claim the merits of which cannot be assessed because the Mail’s lawyers haven’t said which parts of the article they believe are libellous.

No doubt you are aware that, in accordance with the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 and the English High Court case of Godfrey v Demon Internet Ltd, QBD, [1999] 4 All ER 342 (which ultimately resulted in a six-figure settlement), you will be legally liable for the publication of the abusive and defamatory material even if you are not a secondary publisher (not admitted) if, despite having been put on notice, you fail to remove it within a reasonable time.

As the author of the post, none of this is the least bit relevant to Kevin’s situation. If the Mail were seriously intending to sue, they would just issue proceedings against him as the author of the post – its not as if his real name is a complete unknown here.

This ‘reminder’ is relevant only to the hosting company on whose servers Kevin’s blog resides, which again makes me think that the Mail’s lawyers have dropped a bit of bollock by sending their nastygram to the wrong guy. (see previous ‘oops’)

Please confirm urgently that the above-mentioned defamatory material will be removed within 3 business days. Otherwise our client will have no option but to include you as a party to the proposed legal proceedings for defamation.

A statement to which the only honest response is either ‘Bite Me!’ or a citation of Arkell vs Pressdram.

This being us neatly on to Kevin’s original article, which appeared under the title ‘Paul Dacre Must Die’ and runs as follows:

The Daily Mail are a fucking disgrace of a newspaper.

I’d call that an honest opinion and, from my perspective, fair comment as well.

I hope Paul Dacre dies a slow and painful death and that people queue up to shit on his grave.

And there’s the abusive statement in its entirety – not the most salubrious of sentiments perhaps but not one that could be reasonably be considered either unlawful or defamatory.

The current top story on the Mail Website (betting it will be front page news tomorrow with a special defecation from Littlejohn who must be drooling reading this one) is this: ‘Mapping out the strain on your NHS: 243 sick babies treated in one London hospital ward…. and just 18 mothers were born in the UK‘.

Yep, Kevin was angered by a fairly standard migrant story which, as matter of opinion, could easily be considered to be racist in its tone and intent but which has been carefully written to sidestep the law as it related to the incitement of racial hatred. Let’s be clear, our own right-wing tabloid and mid-market press are extremely adept and well-practiced when it come to pushing the racist buttons of their readers without stepping over the line of what is and isn’t deemed to be unlawful in this country, and this particular Mail article is a fair example of the ‘not racist but’ genre of news reporting.

Naturally this story has already found its way onto the Stormfront forums and will no doubt be picked up by the BNP and other racist organisations gathering ‘evidence’ of how the poor white child is neglected in favour of the ethnically diverse child.

Well, of course it did – the racist fucknuts on Stormfront and the BNP read the papers, just like everyone else.

I’ve scouted the website of the hospital involved – London’s Chelsea and Westminster – and cannot find a copy of this map or any press release relating to it so I cannot verify any information or put it into any real context – exactly what the Daily Mail wants.

The statement ‘- exactly what the Daily Mail wants” is – so far as I can see – the only statement in the article which could arguably be stretched, in terms of minute, to provide anything that might conceivable form the basis for a defamation action.

My own reading of this, which would be in line with that of anyone who follows any of the media blogs or take an interest in media criticism, is that Kevin is making a generic reference to the various customs and practices that tabloids commonly use to spin stories into a well-established narrative, which is this case is one that seeks to scapegoat migrants for all the ills of modern Britain.

Were I sufficiently mendacious and unethical I could just about make the argument that this should be treated as factual statement which imputed a racist motive on the part of Paul Dacre in publishing the article in the form in which it appeared in the Mail, but as I’m neither of those things that’s just not how I’d interpret that remark.

The whole article concerns a map made to celebrate the diversity of mothers that give birth in the hospital. It seems to involve mothers being asked to put a pin on a map to show their original birth place. The Mail does not specify the timescale over which the data is collected, nor does it specify whether all mothers were asked or whether the hospital went out of the way to collect data only from foreign mothers.

This is factually correct, although a statement from the hospital, which was added to the article after Kevin vented his spleen, noted that the ‘data’ had been collected over a period of four years from an ICU which, typically, treats around 500-550 premature babies a year.

The whole article is just whinging at the fact that people from other countries have given birth to children in a British hospital. We don’t get given any further information than that because the Mail knows that the headline is enough to get the usual idiots foaming at the mouth about ‘immigration’ and ‘loony-left madness’ etc.

Looks like an opinion to me, save for that last bit for which there is ample evidence of factual accuracy to be found in the comments which appear at the Mail’s own website.

As for those wankstains moaning about the cost to the taxpayer – £1400 a day according to the Mail, not a figure they provide a link for – I may complain about paying taxes as much as the next guy, but you know what, I get a warm feeling when I see this map. I pretend that all of the tax I’ve paid this year has gone on just saving one child’s life and it somehow makes it all worthwhile. A fellow human being has given birth to a child and thanks to the NHS it has survived. It is a triumph for humanity over arbitrary borders, of compassion over hateful ‘not in my country’ types who would pull up the drawbridge and say ‘fuck you’ to the rest of humanity even if they were sick children who would die without our assistance.

Again, a matter of opinion and nothing specifically to do with Dacre either.

When you read this Daily Mail headline – and if you dare, the whole article and comments – it is easy to forget that Sue Reid – the author of this disgusting piece of hatred journalism – is actually talking about the lives of sick babies – something supposedly sacred. Here they are described as a ‘strain’ and used as an example of ‘the changing face of Britain’.

Personally I celebrate the fact that ‘The 243 mothers are from 72 different nations. They include Mongolia, the remotest regions of Russia, Japan, Africa, South America, swathes of Asia, Australasia and even Papua New Guinea’. I think it speaks volume about the value that we as a nation place on human life; that we are in the majority a nation who doesn’t worry about the nationality of a child that might die but instead save it – regardless of whether we can wring the money out of the parent.

I just pretend that none of my taxes go to treating a single sick Mail reader. And I consider them all to be sick for wanting to enrage themselves with such hateful bullshit each day, and for treating the lives of a few sick children as a burden which we must get rid off.

And, again, nothing of any relevance to Dacre at all.

In short, there seems to be next to fuck all in Kevin’s article to warrant a claim of defamation – abuse, of itself, is not defamatory – if it were, then Dacre would, based on his reputation, spend half his life defending actions for slander from his own employees.

What we have here is, on the face of it, an extremely wealthy media organisation trying to bully a lone blogger and his hosting provider just because – two year ago – he said something about a newspaper editor that the editor has taken umbrage with. As I see it, this is just a straightforward and rather nasty case of a big media organisation trying to intimidate one of its many critics.

Personally, I wouldn’t wish a slow, painful, death on anyone but I am quite content to express the view that, in my own personal and honest opinion, Paul Dacre is a complete and utter cunt of the very highest order.

What this does, however, neatly illustrate in the context of reforming our libel laws, is that the lack of protection afforded to web hosting companies continues to be the weak link in the chain, one that desperately needs to be addressed.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the Ministry of Truth is published in the United States on servers hosted in the United States.

Opinions expressed here are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and are the sole and exclusive responsibility of myself (Unity) as the author of this and other articles on this blog.

My hosting provider cannot be held liable for any content posted on this website under the provisions of s230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

  • ejh

    But what a fantastically stupid and nasty thing to write. Really.

    • Omnissiuntone

      That’s the Daily Mail for you.

  • Exactly the same thing happened to me about 6 months ago. My ISP received a similarly vague threat from lawyers representing ParkingEye – one of those dodgy companies that tries to charge you for parking places you’re perfectly legally entitled to park.

    They refused to state what was defamatory/libelous, only that the post was to be removed. My host demanded that I remove the post in question due to the fact that they would be held liable (some old judgement against Demon Internet apparently) or they would take my entire domain offline.

    This despite, as you’ve stated above, the lawyers haven’t a foot to stand on. My post was based purely on personal experience including correspondence from the aforementioned company and advice given from various other sources. Just another example of someone with money trying to keep the “little man” down.

    Having said that, at the time my post was hit with the take-down request, it had around 60 views (after being up for several months). I cross posted it on two forums, and two friends also hosted copies. I linked to these. Between them, they managed to hit almost 4000 views. In a week.

    I think I won that one 😉

    • Walltoall

      I rather like your methodology Mosh. it is very simple very effective and, as you have demonstrated, gets reults. These knackers must be fought on every front. They exist in government, utilities, public services, finance and are out to strangle democracy at every turn. But the army of subversion seems to be mobilising nicely in the nooks and crannies of cyberspace and ccomes out for a ‘street’ demonstration now and again. I’ve seen it all before. WallToAll

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  • Inquirer

    Does anyone know how Dacre proposed to get round the fact that the limitation period for defamation actions is one year? 

  • Anonymous

    The Brunswick multiple publication rule is still in effect so – currently – any time the post is accessed, the clock for the limitation period is reset back to zero.

  • Fret1000

    An ex employer did the same ‘below the belt’ trick of threatening my ISP after I published fully documented and non-libellous statements on my website. My ISP ordered a ‘take down’ stating  ‘there would be no further communication on this matter’. I therefore made a video documentary highlighting the whole affair and many colleagues posted it everywhere. Libel laws are crap when they can be used to prevent you exposing crime. However, they can be frustrated. Let’s see them get an injunction on 600 worldwide video uploads.

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