Resolution Statement – 00041-24 A man v Mail Online

  • Complaint Summary

    A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an online article published in 2023.

    • Date complaint received

      22nd February 2024

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 6 Children

Resolution Statement – 00041-24 A man v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an online article published in 2023.

2. The article reported that the complainant's daughter was in a relationship with another child. It described the complainant's daughter as his new girlfriend and shared an image of the complainant's daughter on social media. This image included her Instagram handle, with the article describing further details about her account, including which relatives of the child she followed.

3. The complainant said that the article was an unwarranted intrusion into his daughter's privacy, in breach of Clause 2. He said that the article focused on his daughter's private life, over which he considered she had a reasonable expectation of privacy; he said that the publication of this information was not in the public interest.

4. The complainant also said that the publication of the article breached Clause 6 as it had a distressing impact on his child and led to unnecessary intrusion into her time at school, citing in particular the nature of the user generated comments beneath the online article, as well as comments she had received from staff and students. The complainant further said that his daughter had only been referenced in the article due to the status and fame of the child's parents.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it had sympathetically reported what was freely available on the child’s public Instagram account, including the child’s comments which remained public. The publication said that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in regard to information published on the child’s open social media account which had thousands of followers. The publication declined to remove the article.

Relevant Clause Provisions

Clause 2 (Privacy)

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 6 (Children)

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

Mediated Outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation the publication removed the identity of the complainant’s daughter in a gesture to resolve the complaint.

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

9. 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: 04/01/2024

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/02/2024