McAlpine doesn't need to pursue Twitter users

With money in the bank and the slur comprehensively disproved, the damage to his reputation has already been repaired

Share
Related Topics

This may be an apochryphal story, but we are told that Lord McAlpine was applauded by diners when he left a London restaurant last week.

Friends of the peer have been reported as saying he felt “buoyed” by this random display of support, and, whether or not this incident actually happened, there is no doubt that most right-thinking people would feel more than a degree of sympathy for an old man who has been falsely accused of paedophilia.

What's more, the fact that he was “outed” by a rumour-mongering Twitter mob only heightens the sense of outrage, particularly among those who neither use nor understand the social network.

In some circles, the good Lord McAlpine, pictured, with his threat to start legal proceedings against anyone who tweeted or re-tweeted his name, is regarded as something of a freedom fighter, the man who is taking on the cyber-gossips and has refused to be cowed by the scale of the job (lawyers believe that the number of defendants in this case could number 10,000).

Lord McAlpine has already settled for £185,000 with the BBC (even though they didn't mention his name), and has said that he is going after ITV for considerably more in respect of their gaffe on This Morning when his name was inadvertently shown to viewers.

Then there's the long list of Twitter users, who include prominent figures like the comedian Alan Davies (440,000 followers), The Speaker's voluble wife Sally Bercow (60,000 followers) and the environmental journalist George Monbiot (56,000 followers).

At the same time in America, Kevin Clash, who was the voice of Elmo in Sesame Street, was falsely accused of having an affair with an underage boy. Again, a similar Twitter storm, but Clash has not threatened any legal action against anyone who shared the incorrect story on Twitter. This is because, in America, the burden in libel cases falls on the claimant to prove the defendant knew the information was false, or likely to be false, or at least was not acting in good faith.

In Britain, the defendant must demonstrate that the accusation is true, nothing less. This is a huge difference, which many have argued has led to an imbalance in Britain in favour of the rich and powerful, who have used our libel laws to suppress information and thus restrict freedom of speech. The British system is overly protective of reputation, they say.

Which brings us back to Lord McAlpine. Can a man who gets an ovation from his fellow diners be considered any longer to have had his reputation traduced? He is one of the few people in Britain that we know, for certain, is not a paedophile. Of course, he should not have been subjected to this heinous slur, but maybe with a few hundred grand in the bank, and the BBC Director-General's head on a pole, the damage to his reputation has been repaired without now pursuing the tweeting thousands.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform