Today, in Britain, we had another one of those reminders that the the world & the nature of news has changed forever.
Although i can't pretend to know the full story, this is a basic synopsis of the story.
A Member of Parliament wanted to ask a question in the House of Commons. The question concerned the oil traders Trafigura and it's involvement with toxic waste in the Ivory Coast & a report about this involvement.
As is normal in these matters a national newspaper, The Guardian, planned to report this. But, then a law firm, Carter-Ruck, got an injunction preventing The Guardian from reporting the question. It was also prevented from naming the MP asking the question, what the question was & why the injunction had been granted in the first place.
This in itself seems to be against everything that Parliament stands for & against the freedom of speech. Usually procedings in Parliament are reported without any problems.
What, of course, Trafigura & Carter-Ruck had forgotten about & not bargained for, was the power of the Internet & especially the power of Twitter.
Word of what had happened soon got out & exploded onto Twitter. Both Trafigura & Carter-Ruck became top trending topics on Twitter & links & Tweets were flying around all over the Internet. I can vouch for this, as when i checked my Twitter feed first thing this morning, it was awash with Tweets about this subject. I wondered what was going on &, of course, followed some of the links. This is exactly what everyone else was doing. Especially as some of the Tweets were coming from some very popular Twitter users, like Stephen Fry.
If you didn't know about this issue before, you certainly knew about it after checking Twitter!
This had the complete opposite effect than what the lawyers & Trafigura wanted & expected. In fact, by suppressing the original story, they managed to create a completely new one.
Thankfully by early afternoon, the lawyers realised that the battle had been lost & the injunction was lifted. The story was then able to be reported quite legally. So, free specch won out in the end & hopefully, a big lesson has been learned by a lot of people.
In these days of world wide Internet access & social networking, nothing stays hidden for very long. In fact, the more you try to suppress a story, or incident, the more likely it is to explode in a way that could never have been imagined, even a few years ago.
Banning a story has the same effect as trying to ban a movie, or a piece of music. It just creates interest & provokes anger & angry people tell other people etc etc.
We have seen the power of Twitter, Facebook & social networking in general, when they have been the first to report news stories like the Hudson River plane crash & the death of Michael Jackson. We have also seen their effect when it came to reporting what was happening following the Iranian election.
The world has changed & maybe the power is starting to shift? Thankfully, in some ways anyway, the people in power seem to be the last to realise this.
Maybe they have been taught a valuable lesson today & one which they will need to learn from.
Power to the people?