A UK highway was shut down because officials were concerned a man might die by suicide. Many people stuck in traffic because of the shutdown highway or who saw the news of the shutdown took to social media, and one person tweeted, “Push him the f**k off or pull him the f*** down.”
The tweeter, Shaun Strachan, complained to the UK press regulator that it was an invasion of privacy for the Mail Online to include his tweet and name in its Dec. 8 news story about the highway closure and tweets critical of the reason for the closure.
Strachan’s full tweet, which was directed in response to a Devon Cornwall Police tweet about the highway being shut down, read, “Several hours for one guy on a bridge? push him the f*** off or pull him the f*** down. Selfish d***heads don’t need humouring & further encouragement. Guess what though.. thanks to you and @BBCNews the next sad loser will do this again next week.” (iMediaEthics redacted the curse words.)
In a message to iMediaEthics, Strachan said of the IPSO ruling, “I am disappointed but not surprised. They deliberately made it look as bad as possible but that’s what they do.” He noted that no one had interacted by replying or retweeting his tweet, based on the screenshot posted by the Mail.
Strachan argued that his tweet was taken out of context and that he had been worried others might copycat the incident because of media coverage. The Mail countered that it quoted his tweet in full and that his tweet was on a public account. Further, the Mail flagged that Strachan’s tweet tagged the BBC News in his tweet, indicating he was trying to make sure a news outlet saw his comments,and noted that his tweet was in response to the police’s verified Twitter account.
Strachan also claimed that he had deleted his tweet within five minutes and no one had commented or shared his tweet, suggesting to IPSO that the Mail used “scraping tools” to find the tweet. In response, the Mail pointed to its screenshot of the tweet, which showed the tweet was posted 15 minutes before the Mail captured it, and indicating the tweet was posted for at least that much time.
The Mail offered to publish a note at the bottom of its article to add in Strachan’s argument that his comment wasn’t a serious suggestion to push someone off the bridge. Strachan said that wouldn’t suffice because he wanted an apology and other corrections as well. iMediaEthics has written to the Mail to ask if it will be publishing the footnote or not.
IPSO agreed with the Mail that since Strachan’s name, photograph and tweet were all on his public social media account, and because the Mail had a screenshot showing the timing of the tweet and Strachan had no counter evidence, the Mail didn’t invade his privacy. IPSO also rejected Strachan’s complaint that the Mail‘s reporting was misleading because the newspaper included the full text of the tweet.
Strachan also complained that he couldn’t comment on the article, but the Mail said that was because it only had the comments section active on that story for a short period of time; the Mail noted it had no record of Strachan trying to post a comment in that time. IPSO rule that the Mail wasn’t “obliged to publish the complainant’s comments” and since there were no “significant inaccuracies that required correction,” IPSO said the Mail didn’t have to offer Strachan “an opportunity to reply.”