Northcliffe drops US legal bid to unmask spoof tweeter - Press Gazette

Northcliffe drops US legal bid to unmask spoof tweeter

Northcliffe has dropped its US legal action against spoof Twitter user 'Steve Dorkland'.

The news comes just days after it emerged that 'Dorkland' had filed a robust legal defence against Northcliffe's claim for damages over computer fraud and abuse, computer data access and fraud, 'online impersonation'and defamation.

Northcliffe had also filed a subpeona against Twitter compelling it to reveal the identity of the anonymous Twitter user.

Twitter was due to reveal all the information it held about 'Dorkland' on 1 August, but suspended this after a legal defence was filed.

The matter was due to be heard at San Franciso district court on 6 September.

'Dorkland' said in a statement: "By withdrawing the case against me they have, finally, recognised the futility of their heavy-handed approach and the entirely baseless nature of all the accusations they threw at me in a vainglorious attempt to divert attention from the real issue, namely their idea that by throwing money and bullying tactics at someone you can throttle freedom of speech.

"They underestimated me, they underestimated my lawyer Frank Sommers and they underestimated the power of the worldwide internet community."

News that 'Dorkland' was being sued by Northcliffe was first revealed in Press Gazette's weekly e-edition, Journalism Weekly, two weeks ago. At the time @unstevedorkland had 150 followers on Twitter. The account currently has 2,379.

Representing Dorkland on a no win, no fee basis Sommers said in his legal submission: "The underlying identities of anonymous critics of powerful and public figures have a long and constitutionally-protected history in America.

'Plaintiff, ironically a British newspaper holding company, seeks to avoid those protections in its quest for the identity of an anonymous critic who has parodied its CEO on Twitter."

He said that Northcliffe's complaint was 'devoid of a single quotation from the allegedly defamatory tweets, or a single evidentiary fact to support its additional causes of action for ‘hacking' or ‘impersonation'"

Sommers suggested that the lack of supporting evidence meant Northcliffe had not expected its legal action to be defended by 'Dorkland'.

On the claim that 'Dorkland' had impresonated Northcliffe chief executive Steve Auckland, Sommers said: 'Plaintiff cannot be serious in contending that these tweets constitute an actual impersonation of its CEO, even assuming that Plaintiff had standing to bring such a claim. If anything reveals just how intellectually threadbare Plaintiff's attempt to subpoena Twitter is, it is this last claim. The court should dismiss this claim out of hand."

The "notice of voluntary dismissal of action" filed at San Francisco district court simply states: "Plaintiff Northcliffe Media Limited hereby files this voluntary Notice of Dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41."