Twitter claims new scalp as Trafigura backs down


Stephen Fry and friends helped to destroy the injunction against the Guardian

BY Seth Jacobson LAST UPDATED AT 15:33 ON Tue 13 Oct 2009

The power of Twitter struck again today, as oil trader Trafigura dropped its injunction against the Guardian. With the help of the London legal firm Carter-Ruck, the company had successfully applied yesterday to the High Court for the gagging order which prevented the newspaper reporting Labour MP Paul Farrelly's written question to justice secretary Jack Straw (see above) concerning the company and its connections with the alleged dumping of toxic waste in Cote d'Ivoire.

After the Guardian posted an item online at 8.30pm yesterday, explaining that it was the subject of a ban – a ban which appeared to run roughshod over age-old rights to report parliamentary proceedings - users of Twitter started to make a mockery of the injunction in a way that the traditional media have always been unable to.

First links were posted to blogs which revealed the question that Farrelly was due to ask (helpfully still posted on the UK Parliament website) and the background to the story. A few brave bloggers, including Guido Fawkes, simply trashed the injunction.
Then this morning, in moves reminiscent of the #welovetheNHS campaign, Twitterers started to send emails with Trafigura's name, that of the newspaper and Carter-Ruck, with a 'hashtag' to ensure that the words shot up the trending topics bar at the side of everyone's Twitter page. A protest was even planned online to take place outside Carter-Ruck's London offices. Then celebrity users of the site such as Stephen Fry weighed in.

Fry tweeted: "Outrageous gagging order. It's in reference to the Trafigura oil dumping scandal. Grotesque and squalid", making himself a potentially high-profile target of any future legal action. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger kept his followers updated on the moves to overturn the ban, while campaigners began to dig up and post links to all sorts of articles that the oil firm would surely have rather remained hidden.

There was a brief panic during the morning when it appeared that the company's name had disappeared from the topics list, with dark mutterings about the service having been got at by Carter-Ruck, but the flood of posts continued. Then at 12.45pm David Leigh, the Guardian's investigations editor, posted: "It appears that carter-ruck have suddenly decided to abandon the fight. no court after all". The Guardian, along with other newspapers, had been due to go court at 2pm to challenge the ban, but were now free to report Farrelly's question.

"Can it be true?" wrote Fry on hearing the news. "Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don't we? We know! Yay!!!" Rusbridger echoed this sentiment, thanking Twitterers thus: "Thanks to Twitter/all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech." · 

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