Complaint 02184-16 Brookes v Mirror.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Nicola Brookes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined “Bullies behind ‘cat punching event’ used fake passports to dodge social media ban and launch more sick attacks”, published on 27 May 2015; “Cat-punching troll linked to ‘Christians Against Taylor Swift’ Nazi slur hate campaign”, published on 24 September 2015; “Inside Britain's most notorious troll gang: Meet the secretive mob behind stunts that sicken the nation” published on 3 January 2016; and “‘Racist troll’ fears he could lose his kids after anti-troll campaigners claim he is not a fit parent”, published on 2 February 2016.
2. The articles were about online “trolling”, and named a number of well-known “trolls”. A number of the articles also referred to the complainant, who had been the subject of online abuse by some of the “trolls”.
3. The complainant said that the articles contained a number of inaccuracies, including inaccurately describing the nature of the abuse she had been subject to and inaccurately described her as a “campaigner”. She also said that the articles misquoted her and had omitted important details about some of the behaviour of the online “trolls” referred to in the articles. She said that the articles had been written carelessly, and had included many further inaccuracies.
4. The complainant also said that she had repeatedly been contacted by the journalist despite her requests for him not to contact her again. She said that the journalist had also intimidated and threatened her: following an email exchange, the journalist implied that if he was “pushed”, he could write an article about her which she would not like. She was concerned that this behaviour amounted to a breach of Clause 3.
5. The complainant also said that the unexpected publication of the articles had caused her distress and shock during a difficult time. She said that, as a direct result of the articles, she had suffered increased abuse online. She considered that the articles had given the online “trolls” a platform from which to target her.
6. The publication and complainant agreed that, due to the complicated nature of the complaint, it would be best if IPSO began its investigation immediately.
Relevant Code provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Clause 3 (Harassment)
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
8. The publication denied that its coverage breached the Code. Specifically, in response to the complainant’s concerns that she had been harassed and intimidated by the journalist, the newspaper said that both parties had frequently contacted one another in the past, and their exchanges would, at times, become robust. It said that in the full context of the specific exchange the complainant was concerned about, the journalist’s response – while potentially intemperate – did not amount to harassment under the Code.
9. Following further correspondence between the parties through IPSO, the publication offered to remove the articles about which the complainant was concerned.
10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 05/04/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 29/06/2016Back to ruling listing