Schillings: Trollhunters General

A troll, yesterday

A troll, yesterday

Law firm Schillings has relaunched as a privacy and cyber security firm, the Lawyer reports.

Schillings, scourge of many a Fleet Street editor, clearly believes the future of libel and privacy lays online. As such, they have co-opted online security firm “Vigilante Bespoke” into “Schillings IT Security”.

Vigilante Bespoke (which wouldn’t be a bad rapper name) started in 2009 as an “ethical hacking” business, testing gaps in firms and individual’s technological security.

Now, Vigilante Bespoke founder Oliver Crofton is being cast by Schillings as the Trollhunter General. He explains on the Schillings site:

“Although the internet is seen by some as anonymous, everything we do online leaves a “digital fingerprint”, which in some instances can be traced to uncover valuable identifying information.

“During investigations we look to uncover IP addresses (these are unique codes that relate to an individual home or office internet connection), which can often lead us to the street address of the person posting the nasty comments. In some instances, website server connection logs can be analysed, which can give us the mac address (a computer’s name and location) of the computer being used to post the unsolicited content.

“Simple tools also help when tracing people online, such as indepth online searches for usernames; as these are often used across several websites and each website may vary in the amount of information available about their users.”

Apart from troll hunting, the Schillings site has lots more to say on social media: what does a company do, for example, when compromising pictures of senior figures are Instagrammed (“the Weiner Dilemma” perhaps?). How to deal with negative customer reviews on say, TripAdvisor, or how to handle an ex-employee who can’t stop ranting about your company online?

The Schillings site is, in its own way, an indicator of where the new libel and privacy battles will be fought. It’s not about newspapers any more.

(ht Leah Borromeo)

MacShane calls for end to corporate libel bullying

Denis MacShane MP today called for an end to corporate libel bullying of consumer groups and criticised the law firm Schillings for “showering writs” on consumer groups, websites and lawyers.

Speaking in support of the introduction of a new clause in the defamation bill that would bar corporations from suing for libel, the MP for Rotherham and former Europe Minister criticised the practice of “civil recovery”, where retailers hire firms to pursue shoplifters for compensation, describing it as “a £15-million-pound racket”.

Schillings has been sending intimidating letters to consumer forums, solicitors and consumer advice groups.  The consumer website Legal Beagles today published a letter it received from the law firm.

Acting on behalf civil recovery firm Retail Loss Prevention  (RLP), Schillings accused Legal Beagles of a ”vindictive campaign of harassment” and ”defamation” and demanded that the site supply the personal information of some of their members who posted comments on the site.

In May RLP lost a landmark case — the first “civil recovery” case to be contested. Two teenage girls were caught shoplifting, but although the goods were recovered and put on sale, the retailer claimed that its total losses amounted to almost £300. On cross-examination, this was demonstrated to be an exaggeration. The case represents a serious blow to RLP’s business, now that the amounts demanded in compensation have been challenged.

However, instead of retiring gracefully, RLP employed Schillings to threaten not only Legal Beagles but the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), along with one of its employees and solicitors representing the defendants in the case.

According to research by CAB, more than 750,000 people have been asked to make substantial payments to civil recovery firms since 1998 — and there are concerns that it is the vulnerable who are most at risk.

MacShane pushed for a new clause that would signal to Retail Loss Prevention  that “their little game is over”. The Libel Reform Campaign, which includes Index on Censorship, is calling for measures to restrict corporations from using libel laws to silence criticism. Corporations would still be able to use malicious falsehood legislation and company directors could sue in their own name.

The clause was put to the vote in the last session of the public bill committee on the defamation bill today, but was defeated. But the House of Lords can still push this urgent reform through.

Jo Glanville is Editor of Index on Censorship

England rugby: Thugs playing a thugs' game

This article may contain traces of sports-related nationalist bias and begrudgery

The Times sports pages this week have been running a series of revelations about behind-the-scenes behaviour by England players during this year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

For some of us, the revelations contained in leaked reports that England rugby’s senior players were boorish, arrogant and money-grubbing came as no great surprise.

Irish people who take these things seriously (i.e. me) remember the 2003 Six Nations incident where then captain (and 2011 World Cup team boss) Martin Johnson stood his team in the wrong place, thereby forcing the Irish president to divert from her usual red carpet route while greeting the teams before the match.

Gamesmanship, one might say. But gamesmanship should take place in the game, and should not involve disrespecting the opposing team’s head of state. Thuggery.

The players’ reaction to the stories of late-drinking and training-ground shirking has been equally unsavoury, from whinging that other teams (such as Ireland) went to the pub too (probably, but weren’t stupid or arrogant enough to get caught dwarf tossing and getting intimate with women they were not married to), to now, in a move of astounding chutzpah, engaging the notorious Schillings law firm in an attempt to force The Times to reveal its sources, cease publishing stories from the source, and delete existing stories from its website.

I don’t really expect Lewis Moody et al to be fully up to speed on protection of sources, journalistic integrity and the rest, but what one does expect, what we are constantly told to expect from rugby union, is gentlemanly conduct. And part of this must surely involve admitting to your mistakes, rather than shooting the messenger.

Wossy's warning

Jonathan Ross’s departure from the BBC has led to a spate of speculation about his motives. Ross himself has been fairly quiet on the matter, though the prolific tweeter did thank his fans on the social network site, saying “Thanks for all the kind words about my decision. I feel sad that i can’t keep making the shows so many of you love!”

Ross also issued a statement saying his decision to leave the BBC was “not financially motivated”.

You’d imagine that would be sufficient, but the need to fill pages with a story on one of Britain’s best-known celebrities — coupled with the recent obsession with BBC salaries — has led newspapers to unfounded speculation about Ross wanting more money, or a meeting in which he was given a “derisory offer” by the corporation.

Such has been the extent of this whispering that Ross, through his solicitors Schillings, has been forced to issue a reminder to media that suggestions that Ross’s motivation was financial would not only be in breach of Section 1 of the PCC Code of Conduct as to accuracy, but that in fact they are untrue and grossly defamatory of the popular presenter, who insists he had never even entered negotiation on a contract with the BBC, much less been given a derisory offer.