I first heard about the oil company Trafigura and its suspected dumping of toxic oil on the Ivory Coast, that this Guardian article relates to, when I read a tweet on October 13 at 1:34am from @Glinner (Graham Linehan, writer of The IT Crowd): “What a shame it would be if #trafigura started trending after their lawyers went to so much trouble to silence the press.”
Indeed #trafigura became the top trending topic later that day. It seemed the whole of Twitter was awash with tweets from thousands of people spreading the news that the oil company’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck,were trying to gag the media with a super-injunction to stop people knowing about its client’s alleged crime.
This super-injunction, which not only prevented the media from talking about what the Minton Report had said (where the story broke from, see a summary of the report here from WikiLeaks via CyberLaw Blog), it prevented them from publishing questions raised in parliament and the people imposing the super-injunction too. This ban included social networking sites.
I’m pro Twitter and love that this medium can help break and distribute stories such as this. But contrary to popular belief, although helping a great deal in spreading the news to many people, Twitter did not bring the story to light in the first place.
Later that week on Friday I watched Have I Got News For You on BBC 1 and Ian Hislop (editor of Private Eye) spoke for a couple of minutes about how Private Eye wrote about the issue first, despite the super-injunction. An article in Private Eye by Ian Hislop states: “[We were] the first publication to print the full text of the now infamous parliamentary questions… a full two weeks before the Twittersphere caught up with the story.”
Perhaps Private Eye should have tweeted a link to it?