Ruling

00276-17 Robertson v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      29th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00276-17 Robertson v Daily Record

Summary of Complaint 

1.    Colin Robertson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the following articles headlined:

(1)   “Trump Nazi rally extremist is mystery Scottish vlogger,” published in print on 24 November 2016, and

(2)   “who?”, published online 23 November 2016;

(3)   “Unmasked”, published in print on 9 January 2017, and

(4)   “Meet the vile blogger whose racist articles have made him a global internet sensation”, published online on 9 January 2017;

(5)   “Racist vlogger could face hate law cop probe”, published in print on 10 January 2017, and

(6)   “Vile vlogger Colin Robertson could face police probe over racist rants”, published online on 10 January 2017;

(7)   “And good riddance”, published in print on 11 January 2017, and

(8)   “Vile YouTube racist flees to US and puts out the begging bowl after Record exposes him”, published online 11 January 2017.

2.  The articles reported on speculation surrounding the identity of a video blogger, who had published videos on his YouTube channel, “Millenial Woes”. They reported that the blogger had given a speech at a white nationalist conference in Washington DC, which had gained international attention after footage from the event had appeared to show supporters giving Nazi salutes and shouting “Hail Trump”. They said that the conference had led the then president-elect, Donald Trump, to “disavow the extremist alt-right”.

3.    The first and second article contained an image of the complainant, taken from one of his YouTube videos. The articles reported: “Do you know this Scots vlogger? If so, please call our news desk “. The third and fourth articles identified the complainant as the YouTube blogger who had attended the US conference.

4.  The articles described the complainant as “racist”, “misogynistic”, “anti-Semitic”, and “hateful”. They reported that the complainant delivers “racist and misogynistic monologues”, “pours out a stream of sordid venom” and “preaches Nazi vitriol from his bedroom”, describing the videos as “vile”, “rants”, and “hate-filled”.

5.   The fourth and fifth articles said that a journalist had visited the complainant at his home in order to obtain comment, but said that “two police officers told our reporter the person inside the property had ‘no interest whatsoever in speaking’”. They also reported that “a woman who answered the door at his mother’s house declined to speak yesterday”. The articles also included an image of the outside of the complainant’s home.

6.  The complainant expressed concern that the way in which the articles described him, and his videos, were inaccurate and pejorative characterisations. He said that the quotes from his videos, had been taken out of context, and therefore the use of this terminology in the article was a misleading characterisation of the views held by the complainant.

7.  He said that the articles had inaccurately referred to him as “racist”. The complainant said that third and fourth articles inaccurately reported that he “spouts pathetic white supremacist views and promotes hatred of black people, Jews and women”, and delivers “racist and misogynistic monologues”. He said that although the attitudes expressed by him “would be pigeon-holed as “racist” by liberals”, he said that his views were “nothing more than ethnic loyalty”, and did not demonstrate hatred for other groups, which he said was the common definition of “racism”.

8.  The complainant said that in those circumstances, it was inaccurate for the articles to report that he was “hate filled” and a “hatemonger”, as well as an individual who “delivers hate online “, engages in “hateful speech” and someone who “pours out a stream of sordid venom” in his YouTube videos. He also said that the articles inaccurately reported that the he held views which were “misogynistic”.

9.   He said that the newspaper’s characterisation of his videos as “vile”, was inaccurate, because the material contained within them was innocuous. He further said it was inaccurate for the articles to refer to his videos as “rants”, given that he delivers his videos in a calm, moderate and even speaking tone. He further said that he does not address the audience of his videos in a manner which would suggest that he is hateful, or hates a particular group in society. He said that his videos were not hateful, and did not incite violence or other illegal, unlawful or inappropriate activity.

10. The complainant expressed concern that by asking readers to identify him in the first and second article, including the image of him in the print article, the newspaper had breached his privacy. Whilst he accepted that he was a “minor public figure”, given that he had publicly spoken at three “Identitarian” conferences, he said that he was not a prominent individual, and was only known for his YouTube videos, and therefore the newspaper’s actions had been disproportionately intrusive.

11. The complainant said that the reporter had failed to contact him, prior to attending his home, and had arrived at his front door without permission. Although the complainant accepted that the journalist and photographer had left his house once the police were called, he said that the journalists had continued to interview his neighbours. He said that the journalist’s visit to his mother’s home, amounted to harassment of him, as did the publication of a series of articles, which asked readers to identify him, and subsequently revealed his identity and an image of his home.

12. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. The newspaper provided links to a selection of videos which the complainant had published on his YouTube channel. It said that these videos demonstrated that the complainant’s views, and the description of his beliefs as set out in the articles, were justifiable both in truth, and as a matter of comment.

13. It said that in one video, entitled “The Power of Pepe”, the complainant had said: “I was struggling to accept that I really was, well, racist, for wont of a better word. I just really didn’t want lots of black people in my country. It came down to a racial thing, a racial loyalty. I didn’t want black people, I didn’t want Indians, I didn’t want Chinese. I didn’t want Arabs. I wanted my country to be for my people. Ultimately my objection was an extreme one.... it was existential, fundamental, spiritual even....... It took me quite a few years to realise the scope of my objection to what I was seeing in the world.”

14. It said that the complainant had spoken at the US conference of far-right extremists. It provided footage from the event, which appeared to show members of the crowd making Nazi-style salutes, after the organiser at the event had shouted “Heil Trump”. The newspaper said that in the footage, the complainant had said: “two or three years ago, I finally came to understand what is called the Jewish Question. That there are problems with the Jewish people. And that was difficult because I really didn’t want to become an anti-Semite. It’s like the biggest right-wing cliché.”

15. The newspaper further said that the footage showed the complainant saying: “Women shouldn’t have the vote. Because if you do give them the vote, they will mess up your psychological defences and your legal systems, your protocols, your culture and make it vulnerable.”

16. The newspaper provided a link to one video, entitled “Men Shouldn’t Want Respect (Apparently) which showed the complainant discussing a YouTube video, which depicted a woman giving a “stand-up” comedy routine. The complainant described the video as a “feminist novel-reading get together “and “the most disgusting example of modern feminism”. He said that “I don’t blame any man, when he sees this video, for wanting to punch that woman in the face. That’s how I feel.” In the 12 minute video, the complainant went on to say, “I think deep down the truth is these feminists don’t know what they want. What they need is just to be fucking told. They need to be told. Here’s what you need, here’s what you should want and here’s what you’re going to fucking get. You stupid, smug, ungrateful cow. And she wasn’t even attractive. I’ll just add that. She wasn’t even attractive”.

17. The newspaper said that the complainant had no expectation of privacy in relation to his identity. It said that he had broadcast hundreds of videos with his face exposed, and it was in the public interest for the public to be aware of his identity, given the views he had broadcast openly.

18. The newspaper said that a reporter and a photographer had attended the complainant’s home in an attempt to seek comment from him. It said that when the police were called, the journalist had withdrawn. It said that in those circumstances, there was no persistent pursuit or refusal to leave following repeated requests. It did not accept that asking readers to identify the complainant, amounted to harassment.

Relevant Code provisions

19. 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.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

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.

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.

iii)  Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Findings of the Committee

20. In considering this complaint, the Committee’s role was not to reach a judgement on whether the complainant was a “racist”, “misogynistic”, “anti-Semitic”, or “hateful”; nor was it making a judgement on whether his videos were “vile”, “rants”, or “hate-filled”. Instead, in assessing whether the newspaper had complied with its obligations under Clause 1 (i), the Committee was concerned with whether the newspaper had provided a sufficient basis to support its characterisation of the complainant and his videos in those terms.   

21. The newspaper had provided a large number of videos, produced and posted by the complainant, which focused on issues of race, religion and gender, in which the complainant had repeatedly made comments which could reasonably be described as prejudicial and extreme. Indeed, the complainant had – in one video – self-identified as “racist”, and while he had, in the context of his complaint to IPSO, sought to characterise this as “ethnic loyalty” rather than what he termed a “standard” definition of racism, he also accepted that he would be “pigeon-holed” as racist by “liberals”.

22. In this context, the Committee was satisfied that the videos relied upon by the newspaper provided a sufficient basis for the manner in which it had characterised the complainant. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and the Committee did not consider that – in all the circumstances – the newspaper’s characterisation had been significantly misleading or inaccurate. There was no breach of the Code.

23. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant had objected to the reporter’s visit to his home. It was accepted, however, that the reporter had immediately left, after being asked to do so by the police. In those circumstances, it did not appear that the journalist had persisted in making enquiries, once being asked to desist. The newspaper had invited readers to get in contact with them, should they recognise the complainant from the photograph contained in the 24 November article. This request had formed part of the newspaper’s legitimate attempts to obtain information relating to the complainant’s identity, and the Committee did not conclude that it had amounted to harassment, such as to engage the terms of Clause 3. The newspaper was entitled to publish a series of articles which reported on the content of the complainant’s videos, and the Committee did not conclude that in doing so, the newspaper’s actions had amounted to harassment. There was no breach of Clause 3.

24. The image of the complainant’s home, published in the fifth and sixth articles, showed the outside walls of the property. In publishing this image, the Committee did not conclude that the articles revealed any private information about the complainant or his home. The complainant had no expectation of privacy in relation to his identity, in circumstances where he had published videos on a public YouTube account and had spoken at public conferences, where he had made no attempt to conceal his identity. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusion

25. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

 

Date complaint received: 14/01/2017 

Date decision issued: 13/06/2017