November 19, 2009

Union forced to remove BNP link

Staffordshire University's students' union could face legal action after directing its website users to a list of the names and postcodes of British National Party members. The union was forced to remove a link to another site within 24 hours after an outcry from students and claims it could have breached the Data Protection Act.

On Tuesday, union president Assed Baig posted an article containing a link to the names and postcodes of 30 BNP members living within two miles of the university's Stoke campus in College Road. It was removed from the website yesterday hours after The Sentinel contacted the union, which has stressed the statement expressed the views of an individual and not necessarily its other members.

In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Baig said: "Following concerns raised with the union by some of its members about the ethics of promoting a site that identifies membership of the BNP, the union has removed the direct link from its site. However, the purpose of drawing to students' attention the level of support on the doorstep of their university for the BNP remains. In a university that has built itself an enviable reputation on its diversity and ability to widen participation, having a political party that works against this principle active in the area is an issue for our members."

Sports Journalism student Shaun Staff told The Sentinel that he didn't understand why a link to a list of BNP members' details needed to be published on the union website. The 21-year-old, who lives in Shelton, added: "The list contains names and postcodes – again, focusing on the locality of the members – and directions to their houses via Google Maps, which seems extremely suggestive.

"One of the president's slogans when he was running for the role was 'Beat the BNP', which is fair enough, but I believe he has gone the wrong way about it by publishing these details. What if there are students at the university who support the BNP? The union is supposed to be politically neutral."

Some students posted comments on the union site before the article was removed. Simon Longden said: "To single people out for their political views, no matter what they are, is just as morally indefensible as the racism the union tries so hard to oppose."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council BNP group leader Councillor Alby Walker told The Sentinel that it was his belief that the students' union is breaking the Data Protection Act by publishing details of BNP members. He said: "It's wrong and I will certainly be contacting the BNP's legal department about this. The person responsible for this has either been very naive or politically motivated. If I was the president of the students' union I would be seriously considering my position within the university."

The union will hold a meeting in the Ashley Building in the Leek Road campus at 5pm on Monday to discuss the issues raised. The university declined to comment.

The Sentinel


Anonymous said...

"Alby Walker … will certainly be contacting the BNP's legal department about this". I'm sure the union officers will be quaking in their boots at the prospect of loony Lee Barnes taking action.

Anonymous said...

I think the prosecution of the BNP guy who posted the November list changed things somewhat because it was the first legal ruling on this issue. The President would be advised to steer clear of identifying names because he could be accused of incitement. Actually the whole area of internet/facebook use is testing laws that were designed to deal with a different age. Even the DPA envisaged someone e-mailing or handing over lists not wikileaks etc.

AndyMinion (BatsMan) said...

Not too clever, though - even though the prospct of a "BNP Legal Action" isn't exactly going to worry anyone, it's STILL giving them a P.R gift we can well do without, as well as adding to their current, imagined, "martyr" complex.

Anonymous said...

The only person who was convicted in relation to the leak in November 2008 was the man who directly acquired the list from the BNP and posted it. No one who passed on the website address, linked to it, downloaded it, analysed it or wrote about it has been prosecuted. That doesn't mean they couldn't be prosecuted, but there are huge practical difficulties.

Using the list to incite action against anyone appearing on it is a different, more serious matter.

Joe Chapman said...

I think there is either case law or the law is going to change regarding passing on of information. This is due to the internet where people have been proscecuted for republishing data. In future the only people that could be prosecuted are those that acquire and illegally distribute the information in the first place, not those who then pick up that information and deseminate it.

Otherwise they would have to prosecute Google as it caches pages on their server which can then be viewed by millions of people.

Anonymous said...

So if incitement is the main issue then presumably the BNP's legal department will be distancing itself from Redwatch. If it goes to court the Students' Union should argue that it was simply encouraging its anthropolgy students to see examples of the lower end of the evolutionary scale.