Oil Company Cairn Energy Secures Social Media Interdict Against Greenpeace

by ScotsLawBlog on July 21, 2011

Cairn Energy has obtained an interdict against Greenpeace preventing them posting to Twitter or Facebook photos regarding their occupation of Cairn’s Edinburgh headquarters.

In their press release, Greenpeace notes that

In its latest move to cover up the truth about its Arctic drilling, Cairn Energy has obtained an extraordinary, wide-ranging legal interdict (injunction) against Greenpeace UK, gagging us from posting Tweets and Facebook updates containing photos of yesterday’s occupation of their Edinburgh headquarters.

The interdict also demands that we remove our Tweets and Facebook updates carrying pictures of protesters dressed as polar bears – and that we retract photographs issued to national newspapers.

Specifically, the court order prohibits “disseminating, printing, uploading, sharing, copying or otherwise publishing any images, photographs, pictures or other material (or copies thereof) taken or recorded by Greenpeace activists present within 50 Lothian Road, Edinburgh on or around 18 July 2011.”

Greenpeace are being prudent to delete the photographs to avoid breaching the interdict. They note:-

We are deleting the photos but, as you might expect, we’re going to keep campaigning to protect the Arctic from reckless corporations who see the melting of the polar ice as a business opportunity.


The grant of this interdict preventing social media posts comes after the first such order being granted in the High Court in England in May.

Interestingly, the superinjunction fiasco from earlier this year appeared to see no interdicts being granted by the Scottish courts, probably because the lawyers who obtained the superinjunctions in England believed that no action in the Scottish courts was necessary to restrain publication there. As it happened, The Herald went ahead and published that which could not have been published in England about Ryan Giggs. Now that the Scottish courts have granted such an order, it is wondered if interdicts and injunctions preventing publication on social media sites will become even more common.

It is submitted that the answer is: probably not. Unsurprisingly the granting of the interdict and its revelation has backfired on the energy company in this case with hundreds of retweets of the images and news being sent across the world. Further, the images which have been taken and were sent out initially are now ‘cached’ in search engines for all to see. Take, for instance, a Google Images search for Greenpeace Polar Bears Edinburgh. But this time it is not the Courts that need to keep up with technology; it’s the oil company itself. The Scottish Court did exactly what Cairn’s lawyers asked it to do: to grant the interdict. The commercial implications on the other hand are the responsibility of Cairn. This time, it would seem, they got it wrong.

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