Tag Archives: censorship

BristolBloggerGate: Three years on – the University of Liverpool, WordPress & censorship

Three years on from the original incident, fellow blogger EcoLogics has recapped some of the salient points in what some called BristolBloggerGate as something of a valedictory to the WP platform…

Exactly three years ago today, on 5 January 2010, WordPress took down several of this blog’s posts.

Actually, Ecologics didn’t fare too badly; even as a handful of my posts vanished without warning, WordPress, or rather its parent company, Automattic, closed down the entire blogs of some other writers (at least one has subsequently managed to find an alternative home). To be sure, WordPress also agreed to republish the censored posts. What we the censored bloggers had in common was that we had all published information about one Howard Newby, the former vice-chancellor (director) of the University of the West of England. It seems that Newby took exception to our views regarding a financial scandal which erupted around him in 2007, and which involved a private training firm which subsequently went bust (Carter & Carter).

Soon after the scandal emerged, and only about a year and a half since he first took up the post, Newby left UWE. But most peculiarly, it was not before three years had passed that the legal department of the University of Liverpool, Newby’s new home, got Automattic to close the blogs with information about Newby’s practices at UWE […]

I hope to revisit some of these issues again myself when I have the time. Perhaps even The Bristol Blogger – now relocated beyond the walled garden of WordPress.com, but quiet for nearly a year – might themself pipe up once more some time in 2013.

In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of the various pieces I wrote about the whole Sir Howard Newby/Lady Sheila Newby/Kevan Ryan/University of the West of England/University of Liverpool clusterfuck:

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BristolBloggerGate: Why was Liverpool University so reticent in releasing details of Sir Howard Newby’s appointment?

The University of Liverpool might regret kicking off BristolBloggerGate, seeing how now every internet sleuth and their aunt is out looking for clues as to what is really going on.

For example, a search for Sir Howard Newby on What Do They Know? throws up an April 2009 request for the “report by the [Liverpool University] Joint Committee relating to the appointment of Professor Sir Howard Newby”.

The University’s ‘Freedom of Information Co-ordinator’ Lesley Jackson initially stonewalled, citing exemptions on the grounds of ‘prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs’ and commercial interest, but Julian Todd, who made the application, stood his ground and argued effectively that these exemptions did not apply. Two months after the initial request, Kevan Ryan – the director of legal services at Liverpool who appears to have been the one calling on WordPress.com to silence critical bloggers – finally responded by giving Mr Todd the document reproduced above.

Of course, this one page document does seem to fall short of what one might imagine a report on the selection of a vice-chancellor of a major university would look like.

Perhaps the pending WDTK request to the University of Liverpool asking for “information regarding all the legal advice and/or legal work the university has purchased from any provider between 1 January 2008 – date” might shed some light on this, and on the reasons behind BristolBloggerGate.

BristolBloggerGate: What would Jon Snow think of his old university trying to silence internet critics of Sir Howard Newby?

This BristolBloggerGate thing is rumbling on and on and on – it now appears that the party demanding that WordPress.com take down blog posts on the issue (scalps so far: The Bristol Blogger, EcoLogics and Sir Howard Newby Watch) is not former UWE vice chancellor Sir Howard Newby but instead his current employer the University of Liverpool!

I wonder what former Liverpool student and current Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow – who is also a patron of Media Defence Legal Initiative, which provides “legal support to journalists and media outlets who seek to protect their right to freedom of expression” – makes of all this…

BristolBloggerGate: Wot Private Eye said about Sir Howard Newby back in 2007…

So BristolBloggerGate is rumbling on, and I decided to check through my Private Eye collection, and lo! I turned up a copy from 2007 (no.1185, 25th May-7th June) which mentions then-University of the West of England vice-chancellor Sir Howard Newby in its ‘High Principals’ section. What’s interesting is that the suppressed posts on The Bristol Blogger and on EcoLogics cover much the same concerns, as any fule with the nous to try a cache search will be able to tell you.

So in the words of teh y00t, wagwan WordPress?

BristolBloggerGate: Backlash against WordPress censorship builds up head of steam over Sir Howard Newby takedowns

It doesn’t look like the attempt to censor posts on WordPress.com-hosted blogs relating to former UWE vice-chancellor Sir Howard Newby has had the desired effect – unless the desired effect was to rake up concerns of Sir Howard’s management style dating back nearly three years.

The EcoLogics blog is reporting on its own WP takedown notice, whilst The Bristol Blogger is back up and running, albeit with the supposedly ‘defamatory’ posts removed from public view.

Similar articles published outside of WordPress.com’s blogs are still up – such as the piece on DC’s Improbable Science from 2007 and titbits published in Private Eye and transcribed onto Facebook – so exactly what was the point of trying to strong-arm WP bloggers, and just what does WordPress think it’s doing?

‘Metropolitan Police attempts to censor Wikipedia over TSG chart’

Territorial Support Group command structure

The above is a photograph of a chart which shows the organisational structure of the Metropolitan Police’s TSG – the Territorial Support Group – which currently faces a shitstorm of scandal due to its officers involvement in widespread violence at the G20 protests, including the death of Ian Tomlinson and the clearance of the peaceful Climate Camp.

The image was posted to the Wikipedia article on the TSG in early March, but following the G20 protests, it appears to have come to the notice of Scotland Yard, which seemingly wishes to censor its publication:

Hello, this is a message from the Metropolitan Police Service. We respect your right to postings, but on this occassion may we please respectfully request that you kindly remove the organisational chart from this page.
We have received a request from TSG CO20 for it to be removed as it is somewhat out of date, and contains officers names which could compromise their safety.
If you would to talk to a member of the Metropolitan Police Service Territorial Support Group to confirm this request, we would be happy to contact you, directly.
Many thanks indeed.
212.74.97.195 (talk) 08:52, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

(Via Wikipedia discussion page for TSG article)