Feeds

Watchdog rules on Hull Daily Mail 'porncoder' exposé

Mild wrist slap for smut website scandalmongery

High performance access to file storage

The Press Complaints Commission has issued a mild wrist slap to the Hull Daily Mail for its coverage of Paul Smith - the man behind local news site HU17.net who was discovered to have a bit of previous form knocking together smut websites.

Back in March, the Mail ran a series of stories headlined "Town website publisher's porn business", "The sickening porn behind this man's veil of respectability" and "Town website: the sordid truth".

The paper claimed Smith was responsible for coding "thousands" of pornographic sites, and duly dispatched an undercover reporter posing as an escort girl to solicit his services.

He agreed to do the business for between £150 and £250, and when the scandal broke the Mail rolled out Beverley Mayor David Elvidge to splutter: "I was not aware of the websites he has designed. I am speechless."

Stephen Parnaby, the leader of East Riding Council, told the paper: "The council did not know about his past. Clearly, if we did, there would be something wrong. It's not the reputation that I would want to endorse about Beverley and/or tourism."

The exposé didn't have everyone in Middle England choking on their Coco Pops, however. Local virger Neil Pickford said: "HU17.net is very worthwhile and we've found Paul to be an extremely enthusiastic promoter of life and events in Beverley. We are happy to continue supplying information to the website in the future."

Hull Daily Mail commenters were equally unimpressed, and wasted no time venting their spleens until the paper eventually suspended all comments on the stories. One thundered: "What a total non story! This man has done nothing illegal and runs a perfectly legitimate web design business. There is no question that any of these sites host illegal material so where is the story?

"This story is a disgrace to journalism and shows just what depths the HDM has now sunk to in an effort to retain readers. Here's one more reader the HDM can say goodbye to!"

Another wrote: "I for one have reported this dreadful peice [sic] of reporting to the press complaints commission & i also urge any other decent people would do the same - Press Complaints office number is 0845 600 2757."

Well, said commission's ruling on the matter is here. It states that the Mail was in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code because "readers would have been misled as to the scale of the complainant's involvement in adult websites".

Specifically, the PCC says:

The Commission accepted that there was a legitimate public interest in the newspaper examining the business activities of the complainant, given his role in publishing a local community website. However, such high-profile scrutiny carried with it the responsibility to be accurate.

While it was not in dispute that the complainant had designed some pornographic websites in the past - and owned a substantial number of domain names - the newspaper had not been able to corroborate the significant claims that the complainant had "designed thousands" of such sites (as many as 3,991) or owned the domain names to "almost 4000 sites". These were crucial allegations and the newspaper should have been able to substantiate them fully (and been in a position to provide concrete evidence to the PCC).

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend dies at 68
RIP Blighty's best-selling author of the 1980s
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.