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.