Regular readers will know that The Bristol Blogger was forcibly removed from the internet by those oh-so trendy freedom of speech spouting Californian techno buffs at WordPress on Tuesday morning without explanation.
It later transpired that the geeks had decided to suspend this blog along with one called Howard Newby Watch and an excellent academic blog called Ecologics “for defamatory statements” in relation to some posts from 2007 about the former UWE Vice Chancellor, Sir Howard Newby.
The geeks then went on to tell local radio journalist Martin Jones, “we received a complaint that there were a number of false and defamatory statements on the [Bristol] blog[ger]. This was checked and we agreed with the complaint.”
But it’s hard to see who WordPress were “checking” anything with because some of the complaints they received were patently absurd, while other “defamations” they were “agreeing with” have been published in Private Eye, The Guardian and that famous fount of untruth, the Times Higher Education Supplement!
Indeed the Guardian claims about Newby are far more controversial than the Private Eye retreads and sweary insults you could find on this blog:
The use of management consultancy firms linked to both Sir Howard and his wife, assistant vice-chancellor Lady Sheila Newby, also caused concern.
“They were private companies with no idea about university or academe telling us how to do things and what to do. People got upset because he was running the university life a little fiefdom and giving very big contracts to his mates,” said one academic, who preferred not to be named.
Even more extraordinarily, statements that WordPress were telling The Blogger were defamatory on his blog are still appearing on Ecologics:
As EcoLogics has noted in several of its posts, the scheme was eventually aborted, but not before a potential conflict of interest was noted by UWE staff and by Private Eye, which published a short piece pointing out that Newby was a non-executive director of Carter & Carter
It now transpires that the complaints to WordPress did not even come from one of the big libel law firms – like Schillings or Carter-Fuck – who might understandably make WordPress shit their pants but from Kevan Ryan, Director of Legal Services at the University of Liverpool, Newby’s new employer.
A fucking public sector bureaucrat – a sort of higher education version of McNamara – with little knowledge of defamation writes a dodgy complaint and WordPress are on the run. Pathetic.
However, the offending posts have been removed to appease the brave, freedom loving geeks at WordPress who have the power to remove this blog for good if we don’t comply. Although all the claims made here about Newby are still out there just a google away.
In the long run, you suspect the big losers in this affair will be WordPress who have evolved something of a swashbuckling reputation for themselves.
While you expect little else of characters like Newby and his sidekick Ryan – a fairly typical pair of public servants in New Labour’s Britain – openly censoring material critical of them while being handsomely paid to bravely defend academic freedom on our behalf, a little more might have been expected of WordPress.
Poor show chaps.
Contact the University of Liverpool’s man with his hands dirty:
Mr Kevan Ryan
Director of Legal Services
The University of Liverpool
The Foundation Building
765 Brownlow Hill
Liverpool L69 7ZX