Tag Archives: WhatDoTheyKnow.com

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…