Decision of the Complaints Committee 12990-17 Armstrong v thesun.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Katharine Armstrong complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “LONDON'S PRIDE Reveller who fled London Bridge terror attack with pint in hand ‘identified’ as Liverpool man, [name]”, published on 5 June 2017.
2. The article reported that a man who was photographed following the London Bridge terror attack, holding a pint, amongst a crowd of people who were fleeing the incident, had “reportedly been identified”. The article contained the photograph and said that “pals have claimed the ‘pint man’– who was praised for his calm response to the atrocity – is [name], from Liverpool”. 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 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.
She said that she had speculated on the identity of the man pictured: no
further steps were taken by the newspaper to establish the veracity of her
4. The publication
did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it had not sourced any
information from the complainant’s private Facebook page; it was already in the
public domain, having been widely reported, that the complainant’s brother was
the man pictured. It said that the fact that the complainant’s brother was the
man pictured, is not in itself private information, and it noted that the
complainant had not raised concerns that that it was inaccurate to allege that
it was her brother in the picture.
Relevant Code provisions
5. 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
6. 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.
7. 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 private
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.
8. 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
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. The
Committee also considered the manner in which the information contained in the
article had been obtained. The article had made clear that its report had been
based on information which had been published in another newspaper: the
publication had not sourced the information in a manner which had intruded into
the complainant’s privacy.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 05/06/2017
Date decision issued: 01/09/2017