When is a secret not a secret? On Twitter!

Toxic law on behalf of toxic corporations

An unprecedented attempt by a British oil trading firm to prevent the Guardian reporting parliamentary proceedings collapsed today following a spontaneous online campaign to spread the information the paper had been barred from publishing.

Carter-Ruck, the law firm representing Trafigura, was accused of infringing the supremacy of parliament after it insisted that an injunction obtained against the Guardian prevented the paper from reporting a question tabled on Monday by the Labour MP Paul Farrelly…

In today’s edition, the Guardian was prevented from identifying Farrelly, reporting the nature of his question, where the question could be found, which company had sought the gag, or even which order was constraining its coverage.

Having a lifetime of experience with the absence of freedom in lands which perpetually pat themselves on the back – for being free – I didn’t pay much attention to the earlier article.

But overnight numerous users of the social networking site Twitter posted details of Farrelly’s question and by this morning the full text had been published on two prominent blogs as well as in the magazine Private Eye.

Carter-Ruck withdrew its gagging attempt by lunchtime, shortly before a 2pm high court hearing at which the Guardian was about to challenge its stance, with the backing of other national newspapers…

The Commons question reveals that Trafigura has obtained a hitherto secret injunction, known as a “super-injunction”, to prevent disclosures about toxic oil waste it arranged to be dumped in west Africa in 2006, making thousands of people ill…

The use of “super-injunctions”, under which commercial corporations claim the right to keep secret the fact that they have been to court, has been growing. Anonymity is also increasingly being granted to individual litigants…

“It also fails to protect whistleblowers acting in the public interest. The huge legal bills involved in fighting cases, too, have a chilling effect on legitimate investigative journalism.

Don’t snigger too hard at the Brits, BTW. Remember the Bush-Cheney mafia originally included a section in the Patriot Act forbidding librarians to say they had been questioned by Homeland Insecurity over what their patrons read. It took folks a couple of years to overcome that portion of crap law.

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