Thursday, 1 November 2012

Why Telephone Taping Is Immoral - An Open Letter To Duns

Since you have replied at length to my earlier post I will answer your points, even though it probably means that I will be subjected to yet more violent personal abuse by you and your followers.

Readers of this blog should be aware of one thing, however. I only set it up because when I tried to post questions on Duns's own blog, he did not run them. Duns himself is always allowed to comment on this blog, at whatever length he likes, and his comments are never edited. He is entitled to state his defence fairly. I, on the other hand, have been subjected to several threats of legal action and vicious personal abuse merely for raising legitimate points about his behavior.I suppose that is what public school, right-wing writers like Duns think is fair. 

New readers can catch up on this debate on earlier posts. In brief, Duns recorded a phone conversation with the writer Steve Roach without his permission. In my view, this may well be banned if the tape was not for personal use (and Duns later wrote extensively about it). That aside, it was certainly immoral - and the rest of this post will explain why.

I find it extra-ordinary that you have resorted to the argument that you needed to tape your phone conversation with Steve Roach because Stephen Leather threatened you with libel. To begin with, I can find no evidence of that threat apart from one flippant Tweet. If I am wrong please correct me. Have you received a lawyer's letter? If so please post it here, or on your own blog. If not, you cannot seriously claim to have been threatened with legal action - and so that is not a serious defense of your actions. 

The arrogance of your claim that you - one person on Twitter - can put himself on the same level as Panorama is breath-taking. Panorama is a major news program. Its reporters and editors are accoutable for their actions. If they make a mistake they get in trouble. But you are acountable to no one. If you overstep the mark, who do you report to? Nobody. It is only legitimate for jounalists to tape conversations because they are subject to supervision. It is not legitimate for everyone to tape phone calls. If we go down that path, all our calls will soon be recorded.

It is clear that you quite regularly make mistakes in your work. Here is one example here.When you make mistakes like that, who do you report to? Nobody. So it completely wrong to compare yourself to a major news organisation.

You have still not answered my questions about your qualifications as a journalist. Have you been trained in journalism and if so where? Have you ever been on the staff of a major news outlet? Are you a member of the National Union of Journalists? If the answer to those questions is no, then your claim to be acting as a reporter is very, very weak. 

You state that "the very word ‘recording’ is an emotive one, and has connotations of hacking, tapping and other illegal and unrelated activities that have been in the news." Well, it does. In fact, what you have done is far worse than anything News International did in the phone hacking affair.

There are two reasons why that is so. First, when you leave a message on an answer phone you know you are being taped, even though you do not expect that tape to be hacked. When you make a personal phone call you have every right to assume it is not being taped.

Second, News International is at least subject to legal and regulatory oversight.  People can complain to the Press Complaints Commission about them. Murdoch can be called before Parliament. But who are people going to complain to when you injure them? Nobody.

So it is far, far worse.

You state that there is no difference between taping a phone conversation and making notes of it. There is a huge moral difference. You are entitled to make notes as your record of the conversation, just as you can make notes of anything that happens to you. It is a very different matter to record a person's voice without their permission - that is a gross invasion of their right to privacy. It is a form of theft. Can you really not see that? Would you not accept that there is a clear difference between making a note of what someone looks like and filming them in secret and then broadcasting the images? Or is it that because you went to a famous public school you think you are entitled to treat the surfs in any way you like.

As I have said, I agree it is not clear that you broke the law in taping that conversation. Unless charges are bought we will not know. You are of course innocent until proven guilty.

But to me what you did was morally repugnant. And it was dangerous to our civil liberties to a very high degree.

It is time you stopped trying to defend it, and made an apology for your actions. 


  1. What do you make of the recent tape recording of Michael Cohen published by The Guardian? Is that also 'dangerous to our civil liberties to a very high degree'?

  2. Yes, it is. What The Guardian did was wrong. But they are accountable to the PCC. So what you did was worse.

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  4. So in your view this Guardian article - which published the tape, something I haven't done - is also far, far worse than the News of the World hacking a missing schoolgirl's phone? Have you reported it to the PCC? If not, why not?

    As for reporting me, you started this blog writing:

    'I intend to pass these points on to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the grounds that an offence may have been committed.'

    Did you?

    Alternatively, I published this information on Google's Blogger platform, and Twitter. If you feel I have broken their terms and conditions, you are of course free to register a complaint with them.

    You are also free to make your points publicly, as you've done on this blog.

    So there are plenty of ways for you to claim I have done something wrong. I don't agree with you that I have, though.

  5. Hi Maria - I can confirm that I never threatened Duns with libel. Very early on when his tweets became increasingly personal and vindictive I tweeted back that he had crossed the line into libel - what he had said was wrong and defamatory. He then started telling everyone that I was setting lawyers on him. That was a lie. He also tweeted that he was afraid that I would send people from Ireland to do him harm, another absolute falsehood.

    You are also right to call him on his journalist qualifications. I can only find one paper where he was employed and there are very few examples of published journalism with his byline.

    Re him asking if you have reported his telephone taping to the PCC - that's obviously not for you to do as you were not involved. I am involved and yes, I have reported it to the PCC.

    I have seen allegations elsewhere that I am in some way connected to this blog (Duns having previously accused two others of setting it up) and I would be grateful if at some point you'd make it clear that this blog is nothing to do with me.

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  7. Stephen,

    In fact you tweeted 'You have now crossed the line into libel. Thank you.' I took this as an indication that you were perversely pleased that I had overstepped the mark by saying something untrue and damaging enough that you could then sue me for it. It's a clear enough implication to anyone, I think. I'm glad to hear you won't. You also tweeted that you were looking for a lawyer in Sweden (where I live) who specializes in cyber-bullying, your clear (and ironic) implication being that I was cyber-bullying you.

    In the comments of this blogpost you claimed that I've made unsubstantiated allegations against you, and wrote:

    'Duns took screenshots of my Facebook page and tweeted them. He tweeted personal details of my address.'

    Your Facebook page at the time was publicly accessible. The screenshot I tweeted showed you boasting about paying 700 dollars to manipulate Wikipedia. But while that is obviously unethical behaviour (and contrary to Wikipedia's terms) I'm more intrigued in your claim that I published 'personal details' of your address. I had tweeted about a racist who used the identity 'stephenleather' in Yahoo's forums, and who then changed that identity to 'Joe King'. Here is one of their posts, starting 'No rage Declan':

    I noted that 'stephenleather'/'Joe King' had a flat in Grantully Road in London. It is simply a matter of public record that you are the director of a company in that street:

    But I haven't ever said that you live there. You've claimed I've published 'personal details' about your address. Are you saying that, like 'stephenleather', you, Stephen Leather, also have a residence there? If not, what personal details about your address have I published?

    Did you write the post I just linked to on the Yahoo forums or not?

  8. Hi Maria.

    (Although, whoever you are, that is obviously not your name; nor are you any kind of reputable lawyer).

    On Joe Konrath's blog, you posted this:

    "When I stood up to that intimidation, I was repeatedly subjected to the most vile, sexist abuse. I was told I was 'bitch' who would be 'very, very sorry' for my comments. I think that gives you an idea of the kind of people were behind this."

    And linked to a post where you said this about me:

    "Another - an unpleasant looking character with a shaved head and tattoos called Steve Mosby - tweeted that I would be 'very, very sorry' for the blog post."

    That gives the impression that I'm the person who called you a bitch, which I did not, and never would. It also (oddly carelessly, for an alleged lawyer) misquotes me, as I did not say that. And it takes my actual comment entirely out of context. What I said was:

    "I think the person who set up the two blogs smearing @jeremyduns is about to be very sorry. Follow him for details."

    The link is here:!/stevemosby/status/246596578050191360

    The context is obvious, but then, you already know the context, don't you? For the little it's worth - which is to say, what your accusations are worth - I do have tattoos, but only rarely a shaved head. I don't have the latter now; I certainly don't have either visible in my twitter photo. Nor would anyone with the tiniest shred of intelligence consider them relevant to a discussion. However, Stephen Leather is bizarrely infatuated with both details about me, so it's a somewhat awkward coincidence that you are too.

    I also think it's fairly shameful the way you trivialise violence against women to make spurious points you know are false. But that's clearly not a discussion worth having with you.