The Lancashire Evening Post, a daily newspaper in England, got in trouble with the UK press regulator after showing five images of children found on an alleged “Russian pervert website.” IPSO didn’t name the website in Russia but said the newspaper called it the “Russian pervert website” and “paedophile website.”
The front-page story, “City Kids on Russian Pervert Website” was published Jan. 13. Hold the Front Page posted a photo of the front page (above).
Even though the images were pixelated, a woman complained to the regulator IPSO because two of the photos showed her child and she and her friends could identify her child. The complainant had posted the original photos in question on her social media account, which is how the Russian website found them.
The newspaper argued it was OK to publish the photos because it was in the public interest. It claimed that its story prompted the children’s photos to be taken off the website in question and that local parents thanked the paper for raising awareness.
IPSO agreed that it was in the public interest to report on the matter but IPSO said it wasn’t in the public interest to show the photos. The Evening Post’s article “led to the removal of the photographs of local children from the website, new child protection procedures at local schools, and the involvement of a local MP. The right of the newspaper to publish the story was not in doubt, and indeed it had performed a valuable public service by publicising the issue,” IPSO reported.
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Further, IPSO decided the pixelation was “insufficient” and the newspaper should have realized the children could have been identified.
Because the mother posted her child’s photos on social media “in innocuous circumstances” and wasn’t aware of the Russian website’s republication, the Evening Post shouldn’t have published the pictures, IPSO said.
“The fact that the child had featured on the Russian website constituted significant and deeply personal new information, with the clear potential to cause significant trauma and disruption,” according to IPSO. “Notwithstanding the public interest in the story itself, there was no public interest which justified the publication of identifiable photographs of the child in this context.”
The Evening Post had to publish the IPSO ruling. IPSO said the ruling had to be published on page 9, the same page where most of the original story had been published. In addition, the paper had to include a “front page reference directing readers” to the adjudication, since the original story had been featured on the front page as well.