Ruling

00277-17 Robertson v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      29th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00277-17 Robertson v mirror.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Colin Robertson 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 “Mystery British bloggers speaks at rally where ‘alt-right’ members gave Nazi-style salutes in support of Donald Trump”, published on 24 November 2016, and “Racist vlogger who became global YouTube sensation unmasked as jobless ex-student who lives with Dad,” published on 9 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”. The 9 January article identified the complainant as the YouTube blogger who had attended the US conference.

3. The articles described the complainant as “racist”, “misogynistic”, “anti-Semitic”, and “hateful”; and described his videos as “vile”, “rants”, and “hate-filled”. The articles contained an image of the complainant, taken from one of his YouTube videos, as well as footage of the speech which he had given at the US conference.

4. The 9 January article included an image of the outside of the complainant’s home, which appeared to have been taken from the opposite side of the street. It also reported that “Robertson admits being reported to police over his videos”.

5. The complainant expressed concern that the articles contained claims which were inaccurate, and pejorative mischaracterisations.

6. The complainant said that the 24 November article inaccurately referred to him as “racist”. 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”.

7. 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 article to refer to his videos as “rants”, given that he delivers his videos in a calm, moderate and even speaking tone.

8. The complainant said that in those circumstances, it was inaccurate for the articles to report that he was “hateful”, or that his YouTube videos were “hatefilled”. 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 did not incite violence or other illegal, unlawful or inappropriate activity.

9. The complainant said that the 9 January articles inaccurately reported that he had been reported to the police over his videos.

10. The complainant expressed concern that by identifying him in the 9 January article, and by including images of him, 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. He said that in those circumstances, the newspaper’s actions had been disproportionately intrusive. He further expressed concern about the inclusion of an image of his home in the 9 January article, he said that given that the article contained his name, as well as the town he lived, sufficient information was provided in order for a reader to find his address.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. It said that the complainant had spoken at the US conference where far-right extremists had shouted ‘Hail Trump’”. 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.”

14. 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.”

15. The newspaper provided a link to one video, entitled “Men Shouldn’t Want Respect (Apparently) which showed the complainant discussing a YouTube video, which showed 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”.

16. The newspaper provided a link to an online chat forum, in which the complainant had answered a number of questions from his viewers, in answer to one, the complainant had explained that he had made a number of videos on his YouTube account private, and explained that “I had just been reported to the police”.

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.

Relevant Code Provisions

17. 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.

Findings of the Committee

18. 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. 

19. 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”.

20. 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. The complainant had accepted that he had been reported to the police over his videos. There was no breach of Clause 1.

21. The image of the complainant’s home, 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 reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his identity, in circumstances where he had published videos on a public YouTube account and had spoken publicly at conferences, where he had made no attempt to conceal his identity. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusion

22. The complaint was not upheld

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 14/01/2017

Date decision issued: 13/06/2017