Cutting out the clutter

The law of libel in pretty easy to understand. If you write something you have to be able to prove that it is true. In the age of Internet inanity, this has become confused because it is hard to track down the jurisdictions involved. Thus a lot of crap appears on the Web without anyone being able to do anything about it. The supposed Red Bull secret test is a great example of this. If one of the Red Bull teams tested on a rolling road at a facility in Austria, it is not up to Red Bull to prove its innocence, it is up to the accusers to prove their claims. The rules of F1 allow for rolling road testing unless they involve aerodynamic work. Can anyone prove that there was any aerodynamic work done? No, so any such implication is libellous. If there was a whistle-blower saying “Yes, there was an illegal test” then there would be the basis for an argument, but we have heard no such thing. Teams are allowed to test with rolling road equipment so long as there is no aerodynamic element involved.

So, if I was Red Bull I would ask the claimants to prove what they are saying? And not just the original sources, but all the secondary copycat bottom-feeders as well. These monkeys with typewriters get away with endless crap these days and it would serve the industry well if one or two of them, notably agencies that produce this rubbish, if there were a some law suits to clear out some of the mindless clutter…

26 thoughts on “Cutting out the clutter

  1. There may be a lot of foul wind out there, but have you heard all the mind numbing and elliptical utterances that come blathering off the F1 proscenium? Not talking about what Patrick Head just said, poor, misguided chap. Can’t they get him for treason, or something? I’ve stopped listening to the drivers. Ooh, and did you hear what daft, old Rob Wilson said to Peter Windsor about which end of the car locks up if you wave the steering wheel around under braking? It ain’t the rear. Not in Monte Carlo.

    Lots more to worry about than some rumours

  2. England and Wales law says that you have to believe that what you write is true. Other jurisdictions get closer to having to write only “the truth”. As to believe is true, different standards will be set. Joe, for example, will be held to a very high standard, because he is expected to be authoritative. But if he genuinely believes facts to be true, he has a statutory defence. The problem rather lies in the sheer expense of defending even scurrilous vexatious libel claims. This is the real of five and six figures a day at trial, if you have a humdinger.

    Joe, you take the line that you do, but you definitely misrepresent how the law is constructed. I’ve said as much before, on each occasion the subject arose, I think. You’ve experience I am sensitive to, and plenty I cannot know. But your simplification makes me think more you have stared down a few possibilities with cold logic, and as a result finessed your view of the matter in a way that gives the impression of a stronger inherent case existing for any complainant in any libel case. No good attorney will lead you down the path of thinking there’s a inexpensive defence, or even a ready defence against a determined spendthrift plaintiff, but I think you overindulge the risk by exacerbating the legalities.

    Your “in the age of internet inanity” phrase and comment, makes me think of:

    “PBS ombudsman Michael Getler looked into the whole thing and threw up his hands: Who can know anything for certain amid the informational wilderness of our society? ”

    Which is a quote one can cite as a possible admission of self censorship. PBS dock “Citizen Koch” is the context for that one.

    I like your point about the story, or non story, but have issues with the way you form and frame. Sweating like a faucet due to inexplicable high temperature so will not expand, but the above hits very seriously on my general worry over self censorship creep. I am not accusing you through example of your language, but your opener fudges two jurisdictional realities (at least) and fusses up a lot more, and I wanted to illustrate a example where possible value confusion over media itself, “internet versus traditional” might risk further confusion of a argument, the example I gave being all too convenient. I do not care the transmission mechanism, but “consider the source” are the three words that most often count, regardless. Jurisdiction should not come into play if there is a valid argument. That jurisdiction is a tool that can be misused does not mean jurisdiction alone or questions thereof are counter argument.

    1. I have always understood that the defence of “truth and public interest” often raised in English courts frequently is not accepted, which is why libel is such a threat in journalism.

      1. You might be getting things mixed a little with defamation law. I might know something quite correctly about someone, and publish that, and be perfectly factually correct. It might not be libel. If I know something is untrue and publish it, that is technically libel.

        But it could be defamatory and true, or rather based on truth, if you insinuate.

        It’s basically not a right to go tell stories on people, and that’s a good thing, because the kind of people who like to tell stories have a tendency to maliciously embroider.

        Now if you are relating a distasteful fact about a public figure, you might rely on the public interest defense against defamation. But be careful as to your motives, because they matter.

        To libel someone is at the most basic, to print and distribute a untruth you know to be untrue. That’s why believing but being wrong can be a defense against writ of libel.

        It’s easy as you can imagine, to play with a few words and get both libel and defamation torts claimed against you, even starting with a simple truth you can establish. Depends on how you say it.

        In New York, and most of America, to prove libel you mist prove malicious intent. That makes for a higher test than we have in the UK. So plaintiffs beat a path to our courts on the Strand, from all over, and we’ve a real problem with the consequently inflated costs.

        It’s the insane costs of defending a well constructed complaint, in strictly legal form terms, ignoring the merit, which has everyone in cold sweats. There’s such a lot of related debate, see the Leveson inquiry, for as close to intelligent discourse (on occasion) as has been lately, that my eyes glaze over. The only way I see things settling is when media in general pull up their socks, because there’s no end in the race to the bottom, and I just don’t know how you legislate or regulate what has become a moral morass.

        Clear as mud still? I hope I separated one kind of mud from another, though, at least temporarily!

  3. Hey Joe
    I know you would post something in responses to this story (if one can call it that) I notice it and what was immediately obvious is that none of the the credible news outlets ran anything similar. Im talking about Autosport, the BBC, ESPNF1, etc.
    Question for you, besides your direct sourced is there any internet source that you will got on a regular basis for news aside from the one I have already mentioned?

  4. 99% of F1 ‘reporting’ is wind and piss, lets face it. Having worked at 2 teams now, the difference between of truth and the press is so far apart as to make me wonder if its the same sport . All media is the same these days though no one is alone in the world of make believe.

  5. Show some broad-mindedness. What’s wrong with enriching the F1 news flora with rumors and hearsay? After all, this sport is an “entertainment business” and therefore this is part of the territory and should be expected.

  6. The real losers in all of this are us – the fans, the readers. You’ve got to constantly be wary of being BSed and so you have to be permanently skeptical and spend time double checking everything you read. Though in this particular case the likes of Autosport did not pick the story up which suggests there wasn’t much too it.

  7. The joys of the internoodle. Comments sections of websites are just as bad. Everyone has a right to their opinion, just not their own facts.

  8. Pardon my possible ignorance as I’m no engineer but apart from a blow exhaust which is banned now I can’t see how anything aero can be tested on a rolling road (unless its in a wind tunnel!)

    Surely the fact that the car isn’t moving all but invalidates any aero learning.

    But then I’m not an engineer as I say…

  9. A few days later and it now emerges from Renault that a test was carried out, on a Torro Rosso, the rolling road was not used, the dyno was, this because Renault’s own dynos were chocka. Presumably this was for a reliability or safety study.

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