Spoof Tweeter Lawsuit Dropped By Daily Mail Group

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The Daily Mail Group has dropped a lawsuit against a spoof tweeter, even though it deemed the tweets “offensive”

A lawsuit in the United States seeking to expose the real identity of a spoof Tweeter has been dropped.

Northcliffe Media, which is owned by the Daily Mail Group, launched the lawsuit last month in an attempt to expose the real identity of the person behind @UnSteveDorkland. Steve Auckland is the name of Northcliffe’s CEO.

Twitter had been set to reveal the man’s identity on 1 August, but did not do so.

Northcliffe employee?

@UnSteveDorkland reportedly used the dummy identity to mock the chief executive of Northcliffe. However Northcliffe was not impressed and began legal action, claiming at least some of the information the @UnSteveDorkland owner had posted on Twitter was not publicly known, and some of the Tweets were offensive and caused pain.

The BBC reported that the unidentified man is thought to have close ties to Northcliffe itself, hinting at an insider job. “Steve (Auckland) is a very open guy” a source said. “The idea that he would gag someone just for being critical is just not credible – it was the offensive nature of the tweets.”

The Guido Fawkes blog revealed that it had been assisting the spoof Tweeter over the last two weeks “by arranging the services of a pro bono US attorney” – San Francisco attorney Frank Summers.

Meanwhile, a copy of the letter addressed to Frank Summers from the legal firm acting on behalf of Northcliffe Media found here explains why the lawsuit was withdrawn.

“Our client, Northcliffe Media Limited, initiated the above-referenced lawsuit in an attempt to protect its employees from the actions of an apparently obsessed individual who, over a four week period, sent out more than 700 tweets about our client’s staff,” wrote Northcliffe’s lawyers.

It added that Northcliffe felt the tweets were not parody, commentary or satire, but rather amounted to defamation, cyber-bulling and harassment.

Free Speech

“Our client is a passionate believer in free speech,” the lawyers added, but said that when it weighed the rights of an anonymous writer against the rights of staff singled out by name, it felt it was reasonable to ask Twitter “to provide the identity of the person making these comments.

“Our client is concious now that further engagement through the courts would require direct involvement of the very staff it is anxious to protect,” explained the lawyers. “Our client therefore believes the best course of action is to voluntarily dismiss the action. While our client does not know if your client intends to continue using the anonymity offered by Twitter, our client is hopeful that he or she will give more thought to the line that divides the humorous from the offensive.”

Spoofer Response

Meanwhile @UnSteveDorkland hit back at the allegations made by Northcliffe. “Lawyers for Daily Mail regional arm Northcliffe Media have just voluntarily dismissed their case against me. We won,” he tweeted.

“The management of Northcliffe Media should be spending its time, resources and attention on supporting, protecting and developing its loyal and hard-working staff, rather than attempting to suggest my tweets were in any way affecting morale or performance of the company,” said the @UnSteveDorkland account holder, in a statement on the BBC.

“I thank the thousands of people who have supported me in this campaign. Crack a smile for me tonight at this decision – I started tweeting as a way to make people smile and I hope we can all smile that justice has prevailed tonight.”

The case of Dorkland has been deemed a success for the right to freedom of speech, similar to the case of Paul Chambers, who used Twitter to joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire in 2010. His conviction was finally overturned last month in London’s High Court.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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