Lawyers have been called in over an article on the pop culture website The Spinoff, which reports allegations about a man said to be well-known in the music industry.
The website recounts sexual harassment claims against the man, based on interviews with women who said they had dealings with him.
The allegations have been made at a time of intense concern about society’s attitude to abuse of females, and the way such claims are sometimes treated.
But ignoring for a minute the substantive issues, in my opinion the coverage raises issues over the growing trend towards trial by social media.
At this stage, police have only begun to look at the claims, but there is a risk that people might form conclusions based only on the allegations in the article.
Spinoff owner Duncan Greive says the website took a lot of time considering the issues involved in running the article, which he says was clearly displayed as the women’s view of events. Several journalists have since held up the report as an example of good journalism.
I asked Greive whether the coverage was a case of trial by internet. He said that been happening for a long time, and he was comfortable with the way the claims had been dealt with.
The man’s lawyer says he is considering his options.
The Spinoff article is here.
Firstly, as the opening scene of The Godfather points out, if the criminal justice system is broken then people route around it. These workarounds are always less optimal than having an effective criminal justice system. The solution to that, in this case, is to fix the justice system’s demonstrable inability to punish or deter the majority of sexual offenders, not to question the work-arounds. The government is always quick with ingenuous fixes and compromises to the justice system and its principles when, say, the revenue streams of copyright holders or the powers of the security services are threatened, so it would be nice to see that ingenuity put to use to protect actual living humans from sexual assault.
Secondly, I intend to start using the phrase ‘But ignoring the substantive issues . . .’ until it stops being funny and becomes annoying, and then for quite a long time after that.