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As I type this, lawyers for a prominent English Premier League footballer are in court, seeking an injunction which will ban the press from talking about his sizzling extra-marital activities.

But you know what? I’ve heard the gossip, and I’m going to go right ahead and tell you who it is. Print and be damned! 

The footballer is…

Roy of the Rovers.

Only kidding, sports fans – we all know Roy’s about as likely to cheat on the lovely Penny as Ryan Giggs is to do the dirty on his wife.

Oh.

Well, yeah, as you’ve probably known for weeks, now, the person who sought the super-injunction – meaning that no-one in the press could even mention that legal action had been taken – was Ryan Giggs, of Manchester United fame. Except, now the press is talking about it.

The revelations have capped a fair old week for people in the public eye and the media discovering that there are things they can and can’t say. First of all we had the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, getting himself into a fankle on a radio show about apparently “less” serious types of rape; then we had the film director Lars von Trier, who made a number of silly jokes about being a “Nazi” and found himself persona non grata at the Cannes film festival as a result.

I mean, what a slur – imagine the wholesome mind responsible for Anti-Christ saying something controversial!

In a very different sphere, we then had the case of Mr Giggs, and the thousands of people who decided to say what they like about a person they do not know, outside of seeing him kick a ball around on TV.

It’s been well-known within the media that the married Manchester United footballer had taken out a super-injunction banning the publication of reports linking him to a young woman who once appeared on the reality TV show, Big Brother.

Whatever the truth behind this story is, I’m somewhat disturbed that Twitter was suddenly aflame with jokers, gossips and, worst of all, the self-righteous – all supposedly warriors of truth and justice protesting against this rich man seeking to buy privacy.

I’m very wary of this type of viral exposure. It has the ugly whiff of the lynch mob about it.

I don’t believe that simply being in the public eye entitles total strangers to rake through your private life. And I wonder how many of those thousands of people who named Giggs are harbouring dark secrets of their own? Like infidelities, to take the obvious example, or maybe criminal convictions, or just regular grubby little secrets they’d rather no-one else knew about? Everyone’s got something to hide.

I wonder how they would feel if such things were to be splattered all over the internet for people’s entertainment? Would they shrug it off, say “it’s a fair cop, guv – veritas and all that”?

The internet is changing the way we deal with information and it is beginning to shake the foundations of journalism itself. But I am not convinced this defiance of the law when it comes to individuals is such a brilliant idea.

Some might hail the developments in the Ryan Giggs case and others as a victory for freedom of speech. I say: only so long as what you are claiming is bloody true.

The truth must be able to stand up to scrutiny under law – and not be left to the whims of gossips and gigglers on the internet, many of whom you suspect would jump on just about any bandwagon for a bit of attention or to create a stir. The freedom of speech is a precious gift in society, but it has to be tempered with responsibility.

Otherwise, you can open the door to people making all sorts of allegations without a shred of proof; repeating lies and half-truths to god only knows what end. Civil law, for all its flaws, has a function in preventing those outcomes.

So, if you repeatedly undermine the law, then you set a very dangerous standard for the flow of information in the public eye. And who knows where that trail of anarchy might lead? Maybe even to your very own door. After all, if a celebrity’s private life is absolutely fair game, then maybe yours is, too.

Perhaps one day your medical records will also be seen as fair game. Or the things you were looking at on the internet before you clicked on this article. Or all the emails you’ve sent. Or the Instant Messenger chats you’ve been having. Or the things you’ve been buying online, or your earnings for the year, or – jackpot! – maybe even your bank details.

So be careful what you Tweet. The barrier between full disclosure of allegations and personal privacy may only be available to those of us who can afford expensive court cases, but it’s there for a reason.

To paraphrase former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie – if you can back up what you write, and you’ve got the goods, then by all means write it.

Otherwise – don’t.

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