New laws needed to stop 'trial by Twitter', says Lord Leveson
And there's the unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, by Google, says judge
LORD LEVESON devoted only a small portion of his report into media ethics to internet privacy, but he has told a conference in Australia that the web has become a "global megaphone for gossip" and governments will need to consider introducing laws to regulate it.
Speaking in Sydney at a symposium on privacy, the judge, whose report on British press standards has divided politicians said new laws were needed to prevenet "trial by Twitter" and "unending punishment" by Google.
As the BBC points out, Leveson appears to have changed his tune since issuing his report. Despite describing internet privacy as "the elephant in the room" at the start of his eight-month inquiry, he gave the subject only about a dozen pages in his 2,000-page report. The suggestion that online material had far less reach and credibility than traditional media was seen as out of touch by some critics.
At the Sydney conference, however, Leveson said the fact that bloggers and social media users are less motivated by profit than traditional media companies means they are less likely to worry about the consequences of "unlawful publications".
Leveson made particular reference to the publication of topless photos of Kate Middleton and this week's prank call by two Australian radio DJs to the hospital where she was recuperating as evidence of "the need for measures to protect people's privacy".
He also referred to the BBC Newsnight affair in which Lord McAlpine was wrongly linked to a child abuse scandal after he was named by social media users rather than the broadcaster.
"In so far as the internet is concerned, there has been, and for many, there remains a perception that actions do not have legal consquences," he said. "There is not only a danger of trial by Twitter, but also of an unending punishment, and no prospect of rehabilitation, by Google."
Leveson said he is watching developments in the UK following the publication of his report "with interest". But, as The Guardian reports, he refused to be drawn on Prime Minister David Cameron's refusal to back Leveson's central recommendation – that the new independent press watchdog needed to be underpinned by law.
Leveson said: "It is because I treat the report as a judgment and judges simply do not enter into discussion about judgments they have given. They do not respond to comment, however misconceived; neither do they seek to correct error."