Decision of the Complaints Committee 12921-17 Armstrong v mirror.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Katharine Armstrong complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man fleeing terror attack with pint 'identified' - and why he couldn't leave his beer”, published on 5 June 2017.
2. The article
reported on speculation surrounding the identity of a man who was photographed
following the London Bridge terror attack, holding a pint, amongst a crowd of
people who were fleeing the incident. The article said that “London's new
pint-clutching, terrorist defying-national hero is apparently from Liverpool –
and close to being identified”. It said that a Facebook post from “an alleged
family member” had claimed that the man was from Merseyside, and said that the
Liverpool Echo had named the “gallant pint runner”. The article contained a
quote from the Facebook post: "So that guy with the pint? Yes, that’s the
elusive [name]. That’s what happens when you’re a Scouser paying London pint
prices." The article did not name the author of this post.
3. The complainant,
the sister of the man pictured and the author of the Facebook post, expressed
significant concern that her comments, which she had published on her Facebook
account, had been published in the article. She said that she had not shared
her comments publicly: her Facebook privacy settings had meant that her post
would have been visible to many of her Facebook friends, as well as,
potentially, the friends of the seven people that she had “tagged” in the post.
However, the complainant explained that not all of the individuals outside of
her Facebook network would have been able to view her post, as not all of the
people she had “tagged” had approved the post to be visible on their timeline.
4. The complainant
further said that when she had seen the photograph circulating on social media
and had then published her Facebook post, she had been speculating on the
identity of the man pictured. While the publication had reported her post
accurately, no further steps were taken by the newspaper to establish the
veracity of her claims.
5. The publication did not accept that the publication of the comments which the complainant had made on Facebook, represented an intrusion into her privacy, or that there had been a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. It said that the photograph of the complainant’s brother had been widely shared on social media and by other publications following the incident at London Bridge. The publication said that the story had been based on an article which had been previously published by the Liverpool Echo, as made clear in the article. It said that as the complainant had tagged the eight people in her post, her privacy settings were such that the post could be visible to an audience in the hundreds or possibly thousands, depending on how many Facebook friends the complainant and the eight tagged people had at the time.
Relevant Code provisions
6. 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.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 2 (Privacy)*
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee recognised the importance of reporting on the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in a sensitive manner and acknowledged the complainant’s concern about the publication of the information relating to her Facebook post. In considering whether the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to this information, the Committee carefully analysed the nature of the information which had been published about her, and the extent of the complainant’s own public disclosure of that information.
8. The article had
reported the complainant’s comments, which had identified her brother’s name
and which had conveyed her humorous explanation of his apparent reaction to the
incident. The fact that the complainant’s brother was, or appeared to be, the
person photographed, was not private information about her; the information
about her was limited to the nature of her comments and the fact of her
identification of him. The article had not named the complainant as the author
of these comments, nor had the article identified the relationship between her
and her brother.
9. The Committee also
considered the manner in which the information contained in the article had
been obtained. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that she had
privacy settings in place on her Facebook at the time the article was
published. However, those settings had made the post visible to many of the
complainant’s Facebook friends, as well as, potentially, the friends of the
seven people she had “tagged” in her post, one of whom had been a journalist
for another publication, who had first brought it to public attention.
Furthermore, the article had made clear that its report had been based on
information which had been published in the other newspaper: the publication
had not sourced the information in a manner which had intruded into the
10. Taking account the nature of the information and the
manner in which it had been previously circulated, the Committee concluded that
the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to
this information; nor did its publication in the article under complaint
represent an intrusion into her private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
11. The publication had accurately reported the
complainant’s Facebook post; in those circumstances, and where the article had
made clear that this information had been sourced from claims made in another
publication, there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the
article. There was no breach of Clause 1.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 05/06/2017
Date decision issued: 01/09/2017