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CTB v News Group Newspapers Ltd


CTB v News Group Newspapers is an English legal case between Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, given the pseudonym CTB, and defendants News Group Newspapers Limited and model Imogen Thomas.

Following the publication of details of the gagging order on Twitter, naming Giggs as the footballer involved, there was widespread discussion in the UK and international media on the issue of how court injunctions can be enforced in the age of social media websites.

On 8 May 2011, an account on social networking site Twitter was created under the name "Billy Jones", and posted the alleged details of several of the anonymised privacy injunctions that had been mentioned in the media. This included the claim that the married footballer known as CTB had been involved in a seven-month extra-marital relationship with model Imogen Thomas. While Thomas could be named in the UK media, the identity of CTB could not. On the same date, messages saying that the identity of claimant CTB was Manchester United player Ryan Giggs were posted on Twitter and subsequently reported in a number of non-UK media sources. The allegations were repeatedly reposted online by other users, in a similar response to that of the Twitter Joke Trial the year before.

It was stated in the ruling that Imogen Thomas had "at some stage engaged the services of Mr Max Clifford", the well-known UK publicist, and that the purpose of meetings Thomas had arranged with the footballer had been "that The Sun was ready to take advantage of these prearranged meetings in order to be able to put forward the claim that it was The Sun which had found him 'romping with a busty Big Brother babe'".

Using London-based law firm Schillings as an advisor, action has been undertaken by the footballer against Twitter in an attempt to obtain information on some of the users involved in naming Giggs. The action is known as CTB v Twitter Inc, Persons Unknown. A blogger for Forbes magazine remarked: "Giggs has not heard of the Streisand effect", observing that mentions of his name had significantly increased after the case against Twitter had been reported in the news. According to measurement company Experian Hitwise, traffic on Twitter in the UK rose by 22% after the action was reported. Peter Preston, former editor of The Guardian, compared the CTB situation to the Spycatcher affair of the 1980s, in which Peter Wright's book had been openly on sale in Australia and other countries, despite being banned in the UK.

On 22 May 2011, the Sunday Herald, a Scottish newspaper, published a thinly-disguised photograph of Ryan Giggs on its front page, with the word "CENSORED" covering his eyes. The paper added in its editorial column, "Today we identify the footballer whose name has been linked to a court superinjunction by thousands of postings on Twitter. Why? Because we believe it is unsustainable that the law can be used to prevent newspapers from publishing information that readers can access on the internet at the click of a mouse." The Sunday Herald also stated: "We should point out immediately that we are not accusing the footballer concerned of any misdeed. Whether the allegations against him are true or not has no relevance to this debate. The issue is one of freedom of information and of a growing argument in favour of more restrictive privacy laws.

On 23 May 2011, Eady refused a fresh application from The Sun to lift the injunction and allow CTB to be named. He argued that "the court's duty remains to try and protect the claimant, and particularly his family, from intrusion and harassment so long as it can." The Sun had argued that the injunction was "futile" given the level of knowledge of the footballer's name.

On 21 February 2012, Ryan Giggs consented in the High Court to being named as the claimant known as CTB. Hugh Tomlinson QC, acting for Giggs, said that his client was claiming damages from The Sun for the subsequent re-publication of information in other newspapers and on the Internet. For The Sun's owners News Group Newspapers, Richard Spearman QC said: "We didn't identify him. We didn't intend to identify him. On the damages for publication, it is dead in the water, this case." On 2 March 2012, Mr Justice Tugendhat refused to grant relief to Giggs, ending the claim for damages.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said on ITV1's Daybreak on 23 May 2011: "It is rather unsustainable, this situation, where newspapers can't print something that clearly everybody else is talking about, but there's a difficulty here because the law is the law and the judges must interpret what the law is. What I've said in the past is, the danger is that judgments are effectively writing a new law which is what parliament is meant to do." He added that the law should be reviewed to "catch up with how people consume media today".