By Kathy English for the Toronto Star
Reporting on the tabloid tizzy over a British court order blocking British media from publishing details of a celebrity sex scandal has embroiled the Toronto Star in a global controversy about press freedom in our digital age.
The Star received a “cease and desist” letter Tuesday from a Toronto lawyer representing the Toronto-born man who is part of the “celebrity couple” who obtained the injunction banning media in England and Wales from reporting allegations of “extramarital three-way sex.”
While the injunction blocks British media from identifying the couple, details of the story — including the names of the two prominent people who sought the injunction to protect their privacy — were reported last week in the United States by the National Enquirer. A newspaper in Scotland, where the injunction is not in force, revealed the couple’s identity this week. Canada’s National Post and the Star subsequently reported on the controversy and also named the pair.
As well, a great deal of information identifying this couple in connection with the injunction has been widely shared on social media in recent days, making clear the near futility of court-ordered secrecy in our wired world. Indeed, to a large extent, secrecy is becoming road kill on the information highway. There are no borders within the worldwide web and it’s unlikely any court order can stop information that interests a mass of people from flowing freely through computer screens almost anywhere around the globe.
That any celebrity with deep pockets would turn to the courts these days to try to keep information from the public seems ludicrous. As predictably happened here, the court action itself often becomes newsworthy in raising questions about press freedom and the story gets more attention than it might have otherwise.