Thursday, June 9, 2011

A cautionary tale : listen to Jeremy Paxman and you'll start to wonder if it's safe to breathe

I was beginning to wonder last night if Jeremy Paxman had made a bet with someone that he could break his own record from the infamous Michael Howard interview of how many times he could utter the same phrase in a single edition of Newsnight. This time, a woman called Jelena Lecic had been invited onto the programme to tell the story of how photos of her from Facebook had been used without her permission to conceal the true identity of the Syrian opposition activist Amina Arraf, aka 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' (who may or may not be a real person). But no matter what detail of the story Ms Lecic was talking about it seemed there was only ever one thing Paxo wanted to say in reply - "it's a cautionary tale, isn't it?", meaning she should have thought twice about posting personal photos on the internet. Even when she mentioned how upset she was that the Guardian hadn't responded to her complaints about using one of her photos in an article, he immediately shot her down by insisting they must have been acting in good faith, and that what she should really be taking away is that this is a "cautionary tale", young lady.

But what exactly is the 'lesson' here? The nicked photos weren't embarrassing or incriminating in any way, they weren't nude photos, they weren't photos of her with a secret lover, they were just...well, photos. And she made very clear that she had her Facebook privacy settings turned up to the max, but even that hadn't worked. So it appears Paxo's 'warning' is that you should never post any photos on any social networking site under any circumstances at all, unless you're prepared to have your identity stolen by an opposition blogger in an authoritarian state.

Sure, Jeremy. Whatever you say. Another life lesson learned.


  1. Thank goodness we have Paxo to keep us right.

    Without his cautionary caution I might, I fear, have put a photo of myself up on my blog, which of course is read by revolutionaries, or terrorists all over the world...

    I wonder what the old fool is on...

  2. Tris, another thought that occurred to me is that simply by interviewing her on TV he was inviting her to be 'reckless', because anyone could take a screenshot of her and pretend it was them!

    Anyone in Syria who nicks my profile photo will have to invent a cunning cover story about the day they went to Bannockburn Visitor Centre...

  3. I suppose one's identity can be stolen if one is an unknown person, though what some do with/to stars with their images accessible to all, like bad tabloids, is yet something different. Like with banks going 'wild', there should be legally established tighter controls of those who display outrageous behaviour, in their own words, punishable if needs be, particularly when there are against them complaints. Democracy does not mean every abuse is 'free'.