THURSDAY 15 OCT 2009 7:14 AM


When it comes to protecting reputation, a court injunction used to be regarded as fail-safe. But that last resort of reputation management seems to have little effect on the social media realm.

This week, a virulent Twitter campaign helped to scupper a legal injunction that was protecting an oil and gas firm’s reputation and preventing the Guardian newspaper from reporting on a public parliamentary proceeding.

Through London-based law practice Carter-Ruck, the firm Trafigura had won a court injunction prohibiting the publication of the Minton report, an internal document about alleged dumping of toxic waste. Though the details of the injunction remain unknown, its stipulations would have prevented the Guardian from reporting on a question posed by MP Paul Farrelly in a parliamentary debate.

When this became known, uproar ensued. On Tuesday, bloggers and Twitter users, led by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, expressed indignation. And with the Twitterati happily flouting the court order, its details were soon flying around the internet – including the identity of the firm, and the wording of the parliamentary question.

Within hours, Carter-Ruck agreed to change the stipulations of the injunction so that the Guardian could cover the parliamentary question without breaking the law.
But by then the injunction had generated far more publicity for Trafigura than it had prevented.

"Thanks to Twitter/all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech," Rusbridger wrote on his Twitter feed.

Carter-Ruck has said the original court order wasn't intended to prevent the Guardian from reporting on Parliament. Trafigura denies any wrongdoing.