The CPS has dropped a case brought under the Obscene Publications Act against Darryn Walker, a civil servant who wrote a pornographic fantasy about pop group Girls Aloud and posted it online. This follows the case of NightJack aka Richard Horton, outed by The Times, allegedly in contravention of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.
The landmark Obscene Publications case threatened the freedom to publish online without censorship. However, it seems the main reason the action was dropped was because the prosecution could not prove the material was ‘easily accessible’; it could only be found by determined searchers. In the other landmark case NightJack was not so lucky, Mr Justice Eady said that Horton had ‘no reasonable expectation of privacy’ because ‘blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity’.
Media is accepted by most as a key public institution – when the invasion or revolution starts one of the first seizures is the media. He who controls it controls everything.
The media has the potential to influence the masses but in a strange twist the masses now have the potential to influence the media. With the internet has come people power and at the moment there seems no end to the power the people can wield. Stirring public sensibilities is self-rewarding, global audiences are being targeted as never before and it’s easy to publish what’s hot and what’s not.
But with power comes responsibility. The owners of the mass media are easily identified – globally there are three to five corporations that control the majority of what we read, hear and watch. Despite their massive power these corporations are accountable but it is arguable whether the millions of people now contributing to the plethora of media available online are accountable except in the most extreme cases.
There are plans afoot to impose government censorship to control bloggers. The political impact of blogging is being seen across the world and although the UK government has not yet overtly banned or restricted bloggers from publishing inappropriate political material it is taking steps to achieve the aim covertly.
By focussing on peripheral transgressions (Walker & NightJack) they lay the groundwork for repressive codes similar to those that exist in broadcast media and those that would exist in print media were they not so vehemently opposed by journalists and owners alike.
But censorship and propaganda are simply methods of control and it is debatable whether the majority of us would choose an absence of control in most aspects of our lives. Freedom of expression, like communism, is a wonderful paradigm but the reality may not be quite as idealistic as we would like.
NightJack expecting anonymity was a paradox. As NightJack he wanted freedom from control while as D.C Richard Horton he exerted control. I suspect he isn’t any different from the majority of us.