Plan for NZ system that will help parents protect their children online

…a carefully designed and flexible package that parents would sign up for when they purchase their phone and internet plan – a package that they pick and choose themselves, according to the level of protection they want to provide for their child.

The Internet has had a major impact on society. Many of us use it daily, it has become an integral part of our lives. There are many good things we can use the Internet for, but there are also many dangers, especially for children.

There is increasing evidence of the extent to which young people are routinely seeing horrible material on their social media feeds. The Youth and Porn study that came out late in 2018, commissioned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, showed that of 2000 New Zealand teenagers aged between 14 and 17, three-quarters of the boys had seen online porn, and more than half the girls – including sexual violence and non-consensual sex. One in four had seen it before the age of 12. Most had not been looking for it, but they came across it anyway. Most had not talked about this with their parent or caregiver.

Such facts can make parents feel very disempowered and helpless.

It’s common for parents to have little idea what their children do and see online. There is a plan to trial a system in New Zealand to give them control over what their children can do.

Matt Blomfield is the victim of some of the worst online attacks and harassments, much of it via the Internet, based on a sustained series of attacks on the Whale Oil blog. He was also attacked and badly injured at his home by a man with a shotgun. This was witnessed by his wife and daughters.

Matt took Cameron Slater to court over this and after years of battling he won. Slater filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and his company, Social Media Consultants went into liquidation. Matt took control of the whaleoil,co,nz website, which he is now using to promote his plan to give parents better control over what their children do online.

Now if you go to whaleoil.co.nz you will see this:

In the minutes and hours following the shooting of nearly 100 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 this year, Matt Blomfield’s 13-year-old daughter had live footage of the carnage shared to her Instagram account by four separate people. She watched the whole thing, filmed by the gunman on a GoPro attached to his helmet. She saw terror and panic; she saw real people ripped apart by real bullets. She saw the blood. She didn’t tell her parents.

Many of the other kids at her school also saw the video, as did many thousands of others around New Zealand and the world. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube… it was shared more than 1.5 million times. It just popped up on people’s – children’s – social media feeds, unasked for.

It was only some months later that his daughter told Matt what she’d seen. It’s a parent’s nightmare, he says. He felt keenly that his ability to raise his daughters the way he wanted to – that is, appropriately protected, with some control over the rate at which they are exposed to the complexities of the world – had been usurped by the giant corporations whose platforms bring horrible material straight to his kids’ devices.

It felt very wrong. Something needs to be done, he said to himself.

In fact, Matt had already begun work on “next”.  After years of putting energy into the fighting negative court battles with Slater, Matt wanted to work on projects that contribute positively. During his years of struggle he thought long and hard about the wider issues inherent in his personal battle: the immensely complex matter of balancing democratic access to the internet and freedom of expression on it, against controls to prevent it becoming a weapon of harm; the inability of our justice and enforcement systems to effectively respond to breaches of the law when they happen on social media; the sheer, global scale of the platforms that dominate the internet, and the difficulty for individual jurisdictions in controlling content.

When you are attacked and harassed online it can be very difficult to defend yourself and to stop the attacks. I know from my own experiences – the @laudafinem twitter account was used to attack many people with apparent impunity. It has only just been suspended: “Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules” – but that can be difficult to achieve, Twitter dismissed my complaints in 2015. Lauda Finem’s website was shut down in 2017 but they still have content online, including numerous breaches of name suppression orders. Courts are still dealing with some this, but they are very slow, with complaints made five years ago still not over.

This is bad enough for adults. There are also many risks for children.

In November 2016, he drafted a Universal Declaration of Rights Pertaining to the Internet. He managed to get some interest from the Privacy Foundation, with a little more interest expressed by organisations in the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings. He’d hoped it might get championed at government level, but so far that hasn’t happened.

He watched with considerable interest as Ardern headed overseas in the wake of the Christchurch shootings to try and win multi-lateral cooperation to better control the spread of harmful material. He noted the increasing public concern and debate about social media platforms but, along with that, the powerless handwringing that usually accompanies such conversations. Many people, and certainly many parents, not only worry about the material that children are watching, but are also deeply conflicted about both their ability and their right to do anything about it.

Matt has no such dilemma.

“As parents, we have a responsibility for our children not to watch mass shootings at age 13, or porn at age 10,” he says. “Let’s stop and take a look at what the problem is, the elephant in the room, which is what’s happening right here on our own shores. Our kids, here in New Zealand, are watching stuff that no parent would want them watching”.

“We’re sitting here worrying about youth suicide statistics, youth mental health, young kids who feel shit about their own bodies and their own lives, kids who are getting their sex and relationship education through free porn sites controlled by massive corporates. And we’re sitting here going, this needs to change. And we’re waiting for the government to do it. Waiting for Facebook to do. Waiting for Instagram to do it. Waiting for who?”

“Jacinda’s efforts are good, but only partially deal with the problem. Up until now, the corporates have decided what happens to us online, and now they’re deciding what steps they’re going to take to help us. We can’t leave it up to them. Let’s take the steps ourselves and get back some control.”

Matt believes it will take a community effort to save our children from the harmful effects of exposure to damaging and illegal material on the internet. Our own community, saving our own children.

“Who are we counting on to sort this out for us? And the answer is, it’s not one person’s fix. This is not just a corporate or government issue. It’s a collective issue. We need a combination of commercial businesses, academia and government to work together on this with a common goal of saving our kids.”

He’s right. We can’t rely on large corporates like Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to protect us and our children. we can’t rely on our Government, who haven’t done much so far.

Perhaps we need someone like Matt to promote much better action, but the more support he gets the more chance of achieving something worthwhile.

He talked to people he knows in the technology sector, and it became apparent to him that the technology already exists that could put the power back into the hands of parents. What doesn’t exist, however, is a system around the technology to ensure that it’s easy to use, flexible enough to provide for individual choice and control, and expertly tailored to acknowledge important steps of a child’s developing maturity. In other words, this concept needed a comprehensive vision and, crucially, a plan.

That is what Matt’s doing next.

He’s begun putting together an informal working group, comprising technology experts in big data, AI and software development, child development specialists, media academics, and ISP and handset providers – as well as smart business minds, branding and sales experts. He’s casting his net wide, hoping other people with expertise and ideas in this broad area will get in touch.

He envisages a carefully designed and flexible package that parents would sign up for when they purchase their phone and internet plan – a package that they pick and choose themselves, according to the level of protection they want to provide for their child. Information will be provided about child development, and the levels of understanding inherent in each stage of a child’s developing intellectual and emotional maturity.

“People are daunted by the scale of the internet,” Matt acknowledges.

Daunting, but we will only remain helpless if we don’t do more to help ourselves, and our children and grandchildren.

“We know that China simply banned Facebook – they can do that because they are an authoritarian society. Of course, we don’t want to do that anyway, but it points to the difficulty of creating safeguards in a society like ours where we’re concerned about censorship and the fair balance of opinions. So, let’s give the power back to the people and let the people decide.

“Big corporations want your data. They use it to learn a lot about you, to push advertising and sell you more. On the other hand, they do not enable you to have access to that data, and there is no AI looking out for people in this equation.  There is no balance of data, no fair exchange of value.  As an example, Google is starting to get its hands on individuals’ health data (Stuff: ‘Google wants to get its hand on your health data’, 17-11-19) without people’s consent; its objective is to grow its revenues.

“My plan is about taking that control away from the corporates, and taking the responsibility away from them in some sense because we don’t trust them with that responsibility. We’ll give parents the choice to decide what they can and can’t see.”

New Zealand is the perfect place to trial such a system, he believes.

If enough of us think that something can and should be done, we can help make it happen.

If you are interested in discussing this with Matt, send an email to:  MATT@BLOMFIELD.CO.NZ

Watch this space.

One down, more Whale Oil sites targeted

Yesterday Matt Blomfield took control of the whaleoil.co.nz website after purchasing it from liquidators. he has it redirecting to his own site which has a postscript to the Margie Thomson book Whale Oil. It concludes:

This site — whaleoil.co.nz — now serves as a perpetual memorial to the injustices inflicted on all those people, and to Matt’s long battle to curtail falsity, bullying and manipulation.

That is a very fine ending.

It is a fine ending to the original Whale Oil blog site, which became too nasty and too toxic, with Cameron Slater and those who supplied, aided and abetted him abusing the power of media while they could get away with it.

But the website had moved onto other sites.

Some of the recent events are traceable within the records of the Companies Register. There, the dry accumulation of company names, name changes, changes in shareholdings and directorships whispers of the sheer human drama and desperate planning that has gone on behind the scenes as Slater and his supporters seemed to do everything they could think of to rescue something from their sinking ship. Social Media Consultants, then-owner of the whaleoil blog, went into liquidation. A new company, Madas 114, was set up and then shortly after became WOBH; whaleoil.co.nz became whaleoil.net.nz before morphing, chameleon-like, into a completely new blogsite. Slater passed all his shareholdings and directorships to his wife, to his accountant, and then back to his wife.

The liquidator quickly took issue with what she identified as the illegal transfer of assets away from creditors and into new entities.

In short, the estimated claims against Slater and his company so far total more than $4.7 million.

‘Fill your boots,’ Slater said a few years ago. ‘When you’ve got nothing to lose, you’re dangerous.’

His problem now is that Blomfield has nothing to lose by finishing his goal of shutting down Whale Oil – all of it.

Blomfield’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, tweeted yesterday afternoon:

Actually an attempt has been made to distance ownership of whaleoil.net.nz and thebfd.co.nz away from Slater and his wife Juana Atkins.

One is  registered to Regan Cunliffe, a long time associate of Slater (a few years ago they had jointly planned to set up some great new media site but I think funding fell through).

The other is registered to Andrea Parkes (who provides a whaleoil.org.nz contact email address).

Blomfield has proven he has determination and tenacity. He has a very capable lawyer who also seems to have determination to see this through. And they have widespread popular support to bury a dead horse.

Slater may feel he has little more to lose, and Atkins may also be similar.

But I wonder how willing Cunliffe and Parkes may be to be dragged into the legal mire.

And for what? Trying to give life support to a toxic, failed brand? And potentially being parties to attempts to misappropriate assets in a bankruptcy and in a liquidation?


Actually, Atkins may have quite a bit to lose.

Juana Atkins did not reply to the liquidator; neither did she comply with demands to relinquish control of the assets. On August 5, the liquidator who, remember, is an officer of the Court, wrote to the police for assistance, citing six sections of the Crimes Act she believed Atkins may have breached. The police replied briefly, telling Toon she should take her complaint to the front desk of her nearest police station.

Things may be yet to catch up on her.

That same day, a link to a nasty website was circulated, devoted to taunting the liquidator in the most horrible ways.

That is dumb – and I know someone who is trying to do this. They have been a significant contributor to attacks against Blomfield and to the the downfall of Slater. And they seem intent on continuing in their destructive behaviour. That may well catch up on them too.

The new look Whale Oil – as it should be

A new look to whaleoil.co.nz

A well deserved response. It’s worth reading all of Chapter 27, but here’s the final say:


Since the publication of Whale Oil, the book, there’s no question Matt’s life has changed. He is now generally perceived for who he is, and no longer for what Slater’s blog said he was, and he reaps the benefits of that every day, every time he gets a new client, every time someone reads the book and sends him a friendly message. And yet the exercise of holding Slater to account was, he says, a kamikaze effort. Winning against Slater in the High Court, finding justice for himself, was a massive victory but whether he can claw his way back to financial stability and to a sense of peacefulness for his family remains an open question.

I know he’s doing it tough. I probably know it better than anyone outside his family, after my four years of almost daily contact with this indefatiguable man; yet I can’t believe he won’t do what he always does: tough it out, battle through, do something audacious that will — somehow — save the day.

And so we arrive back at this masterstroke – this takeover of the whaleoil blogsite. What’s in it for Matt? Why would he bother? The toxic stuff once written up here about him is long gone, thanks to Matt’s efforts through the courts. The whaleoil site itself is worth nothing now, but it’s also worth everything.

All those other people, the ones who like Matt were slandered, bullied and humiliated on that blog over all those years — the horrible stories about them are still out there, recurrent reminders of vicious attacks. People like the woman I interviewed who was still too shaky to tell me what had happened but who simply googled herself and silently showed me the result on her phone; people like Scott Poynting, who knows that anyone googling him runs immediately into the whaleoil accusations against him. There are many, many such people.

All of that will — after Matt’s won the required court orders — be gone. Because the internet never goes away they will never be completely destroyed, but they will be gone from casual searches.

All the nasty stories, the lies and the taunts, will be pulled down.

This site — whaleoil.co.nz — now serves as a perpetual memorial to the injustices inflicted on all those people, and to Matt’s long battle to curtail falsity, bullying and manipulation.

That is a very fine ending.

Click here to get a copy of Whale Oil by margie thomson

A large bit of deceit at Whale Oil

Whale Oil continues to deceive their readers, most of whom are likely to know at least some of the truth despite repeated posts that defy reality. I think that SB (Juana Atkins) is unlikely to be totally ignorant of what numerous court judgments and media reports have revealed over the years, but SB continues to make claims that are at odds with what Cameron Slater and Whale Oil have done – and some of which she has been a party to.

Posted yesterday:  A Little Bit of Justice

As I write this post I am acutely aware of my bias.

She begins with a frank admission, but it all goes downhill from there.

My view of New Zealand’s justice system is totally skewed by the fact that people with deep pockets were able to drag my better half through the court system for more than 7 long years until he had a debilitating stroke from the stress at only 49 years old and was forced to declare himself bankrupt.

I think it’s fair to say that Slater brought a lot of stress upon himself. he had his stroke last October, when he had embroiled himself in the Jami Lee Ross saga, was dealing with finally having to front up in court in the seven year Blomfield defamation, had just been slammed by another judge in another ongoing defamation case – see More court costs for Slater and co-defendants in defamation entree, abandons appeal in another case – and had just got bad news in his defamation tit for tat versus Colin Craig – see Craig v Slater – the biggest losers.

When SB first fronted up about the stroke at Whale Oil in February she blamed reporters for causing stress:

Prior to this event Cam was perfectly fit and healthy with no predisposing stroke risk factors. Doctors have concluded that the cause of the stroke was entirely due to stress.

That doctor claim has been debunked in court. The claim of no predisposing stroke risk factors also looks questionable if not downright nonsense.

“7 long years” has to be referring to the defamation case against Slater, doggedly pursued by Matt Blomfield after Slater had run an attack campaign of over a hundred posts on Whale Oil based on the contents of a hard drive that Slater had obtained that contained a large amount of private, personal and business information – Judge Asher found the hard drive and other documents provided to Slater “appear to have been obtained illegitimately”.

Being right didn’t matter at the end of the day as it came down to who could last the longest.

‘Being right’ is a ludicrous claim. Slater was eventually found to have been wrong about many things, with a court finding in the end that he had no defence to false and defamatory  claims.

And it was Slater who dragged the proceedings out for so long, trying to avoid being held to account with many delays and failed appeals. Some of the delays and the copious amount of inadmissible ‘evidence’ can be put down to legal incompetence. He was helped by Dermot Nottingham, who has a very poor record in numerous legal proceedings. But some appears to have been deliberate tactics to wear down legal opponents and to inflict as much financial hardship as possible.  That eventually backfired, with both Slater and Nottingham now bankrupt over hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal costs.

NZ Herald:  Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater loses defamation case and gets told: ‘Your day will come’

Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater has lost one of the country’s longest running defamation cases after failing to put up any credible defence.

The judgment made public today saw Justice Paul Davison find in Blomfield’s favour, ruling out a defence from Slater after long delays and failures to meet legal requirements to defend a claim of defamation.

The new judgment came after a defamation hearing as due to start on October 8 was adjourned when Slater and lawyers arrived at court without a proper defence.

In total, Slater had entered or attempted to enter five statements of defence over the course of the case which all failed to meet the legal requirements for attempted defences of truth and of honest opinion.

Davison said Slater had been “afforded considerable leniency” to meet deadlines and get a proper defence before the court.

There had been “indulgence” to allow Slater to change his defence with one High Court judge even providing the blogger guidance as to how to prepare for the defamation hearing.

Davison said Slater’s attempts to change his defence and to introduce new pleadings was rightly seen as “a last-minute attempt to prevent the (Blomfield’s) claim from being heard and determined by the court”.

He said it was possible to see delay as Slater’s objective when seeking court hearings on issues such as a security for costs.

Davison said the statement of defence Slater had arrived with when the trial was due to start failed to identify the facts which would have been used to prove his blog posts were true.

Instead, large piles of evidence had been pointed to which, in a number of cases, relied on “a third party’s allegations about the plaintiff”.

And instead of providing a defence of honest opinion, Slater’s court filings instead repeated his inadequate defence of truth.

Davison said it wasn’t necessary to rule on the merits of the case because of the legal, technical flaws in Slater’s attempted defence.

“However, in my view the documents relied on by the defendants do not provide cogent support for the propositions and conclusions they seek to draw from them in relation to the defences of truth and honest opinion, or the bad reputation of the plaintiff.”

So the judge found that Slater had no defence for making false and defamatory claims. SB must be aware of this, but still claims that Slater was right and is somehow the victim in this.

Slater appealed, but that appeal has since been dropped. Damages are yet to be awarded, that won’t happen until next year.

Costs on pre-trial proceedings have been awarded against Slater a number of times over the years (that happens when you’re wrong, not right). The last of these were awarded recently  – BLOMFIELD v SLATER COSTS JUDGMENT [2019] NZHC 1203 [29 May 2019]

By memorandum dated 23 November 2018, Mr Blomfield (the plaintiff), seeks an award of costs against Mr Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited (collectively “the defendants”), in relation to several interlocutory matters.

SB (Atkins) was a director of Social Media Consultants Limited (now in liquidation) so must be aware of all of this.

The defendants were planning on relying on a large body of evidence covering many different issues, and I determined that almost all of it was inadmissible.

The plaintiff is entitled to costs and disbursements of $59,000.29 as set out in the annexed schedule.

The Human Rights tribunal also found that Slater and Whale Oil were wrong – Human Rights Tribunal slams Cameron Slater:

This blog can only be described as a calculated attack on Mr Blomfield and an extended assassination of his character.”

Even if Mr Slater was not party to any illegality, it seems likely the information was obtained illegally by Mr Slater’s sources.

[175.1] A declaration is made under s 85(1)(a) of the Privacy Act 1993 that Mr Slater interfered with the privacy of Mr Blomfield by disclosing personal information about Mr Blomfield contrary to IPP 11.

[175.2] An order is made under s 85(1)(b) of the Privacy Act 1993 restraining Mr Slater from continuing or repeating the interferences with Mr Blomfield’s privacy, or from engaging in, or causing or permitting others to engage in, conduct of the same kind as that constituting the interferences, or conduct of any similar kind.

[175.3] An order is made under s 85(1)(d) of the Privacy Act 1993 that Mr Slater erase, destroy, take down and disable any personal information about Mr Matthew John Blomfield as may be held on http://www.whaleoil.co.nz and on http://www.scribd.com. Mr Slater is to likewise erase, destroy, take down or disable any of Mr Blomfield’s personal information published by Mr Slater and which may be found on any other website or database which is within Mr Slater’s direction or control.

[175.4] Damages of $70,000 are awarded against Mr Slater under ss 85(1)(c) and 88(1)(c) of the Privacy Act 1993 for the humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings experienced by Mr Blomfield.

The full judgment [2019] NZHRRT 13 is here.


SB continued yesterday:

Oh, how I hate the old “public interest” line. The New Zealand media and Nicky Hager justified what they did to us as being in the public interest. The information they had obtained was stolen and included private and personal communications but even though it revealed zero wrongdoing (no one had broken any law) they decided it was in the “Public interest” to publish what had been written between friends with an expectation of privacy.

‘Zero wrongdoing’ is a joke.

I have always expressed concerns about hacking for political purposes, but there is no evidence that Slater was actually hacked (although it seems likely). There have been suggestions a whistle blower inside the Whale Oil camp may have at least aided the revelations.

There was certainly public interest in revealing that staff (Jason Ede at least) in the Prime Minister’s office colluded with Slater and used Whale Oil as a medium with which to run political attacks – some of the dirtiest of politics (Slater used to brag about how dirty he played).

There was also public interest in revealing that Whale Oil was being paid to run attacks on businesses, academics and people.

Perhaps SB just hates being found out.

She is also being very hypocritical about personal information and privacy, given:

  • Slater and Jason Ede using private information obtained from a Labour Party website by dubious means.
  • Slater’s attempt to hack The Standard (he had to admit he broke the law to get diversion).
  • Slater’s use of Blomfield’s private information.
  • The attempt to overturn the Auckland Mayoral election, and the trashing of Len Brown, using private and personal information.
  • The trashing of Colin Craig’s political career using private information in a breach of confidence.

There must be few people now who are still deceived by claims of innocence at Whale Oil, and there will be little sympathy for their repeated claims to be victims.

They are running the risk of ongoing self inflicted stress. They could deal with this if they front up with some honesty, as well as admissions and acceptance of the harm they have dumped on many people, but there is no sign of that happening.

High Court awards more costs against Slater, SMCL

Legal costs continue to mount for Cameron Slater and the company that ran Whale Oil, Social Media Consultants Limited. Slater has already filed for bankruptcy, and the company is in liquidation.

The latest costs of $59,000 are for pre-trial proceedings and do not include preparing for and conducting the trial held last October, nor damages, neither of which will be determined until next year.

Judgment: BLOMFIELD v SLATER COSTS JUDGMENT [2019] NZHC 1203 [29 May 2019]

[1] By memorandum dated 23 November 2018, Mr Blomfield (the plaintiff), seeks an award of costs against Mr Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited (collectively “the defendants”), in relation to several interlocutory matters.

[4] Following two results judgments on 27 September and 16 October 2018,2 on 26 October 2018, I released a judgment detailing my reasons for ruling in favour of the plaintiff on several interlocutory matters. The interlocutory matters dealt with in those judgments were:

(a) the defendants’ application for security for costs;

(b) the defendants’ application for leave to file a fourth amended statement of defence;

(c) the defendants’ application for leave to file a fifth amended statement of defence;

(d) the defendants’ application for an adjournment of the trial for a day to enable counsel to prepare the fifth amended statement of defence; and

(e) the plaintiff’s application challenging the admissibility of evidence proposed to be adduced by the defendants.

It was Slater’s fourth failed application for security of costs.

Blomfield’s lawyer Felix Geiringer has pointed out that the it was actually Slater’s ninth statement of defence document in the lengthy (over 6 years) lead up to the trial. From the book Whale Oil:

Not withstanding (Judge) Laang’s orders for timetabling – all pleadings by 13 July; all briefs of evidence by 13 August – throughout September Slater embarks on a massive exercise, filing enormous quantities of paperwork, including a new statement of defence, with dozens of amendments and additions, making it substantially different to the document around which Matt and Geiringer have been preparing for trial. It even includes a new defence of public interest; that Slater was doing important civic duty in exposing Matt’s activities.

The material flooding in is overwhelmingly dense, and it’s now two months after the date that wss to have been Slater’s last chance to file his defence.

From the judgment:

[21] The trial was originally due to start on 8 October 2018, and the defendants’ evidence was originally to be filed by 13 August 2018. Two briefs were filed on 21 September 2018, following an unless order made by Wylie J in a Minute issued on 13 September 2018. A notice under r 9.7(6) of the High Court Rules 2016 was also filed by the defendants to the effect that they intended to call 27 witnesses who had not provided briefs of evidence. That notice did not contain the necessary information required by r 9.7(6). The defendants also did not finalise their list of documents to be included in the common bundle until 6 October 2018, two days before the trial was due to commence.

[22] The plaintiff’s counsel says that he urgently assembled a team of five lawyers, who worked extensive hours in an effort to try and preserve the trial fixture. In addition to responding to the defendants’ interlocutory applications, they assembled an electronic casebook ready for a delayed start of the trial scheduled for 23 October
2018. They also prepared reply evidence, submissions and cross examination materials.

[25] For those reasons, I have decided to allow the plaintiff to recover the full amount of costs it seeks on a mixed 3A/3B/3C basis, except for the amount claimed for wasted preparation for trial.

[26] Having considered the disbursements the plaintiff also seeks, I have decided to allow the full amount of $10,160.29.

Result

[27] The plaintiff is entitled to costs and disbursements of $59,000.29 as set out in the annexed schedule.

That adds to the already substantial debts in Slater’s bankruptcy and Social media Consultant’s liquidation.

The only significant assets disclosed so far are the value of the Whale Oil website (whatever that may be), and several hundred thousand dollars of costs awarded to Slater and Social media Consultants – see Slater awarded costs v Craig, but well short of actual costs (with Slater’s legal bills in that proceeding far in excess of costs awarded).

This will take some time to work through, as the damages award is still pending, as is another defamation case Slater (and others) still face versus Sellman, Swinburn and Bradbrook – latest public judgment: SELLMAN v SLATER NO 7 [2019] NZHC 467 [18 March 2019]

Blomfield may benefit from Craig costs v Slater

Here’s a possible twist to Cameron Slater’s defamation cases – he has been awarded substantial costs in the Craig v Slater defamation case, but as I understand it those will be paid to the administrators of Slater’s bankruptcy and company liquidation. And part of available funds from them could end up being paid to Matt Blomfield, who is likely to be a major creditor for both.

While Blomfield has won substantial costs in various court proceedings, Slater appeared to negate all of that by declaring himself bankrupt in February.

This week the a High Court judge awarded costs to Slater in the defamation and counter defamation trial versus Colin Craig – see Slater awarded costs v Craig, but well short of actual costs.

These costs amount to several hundred thousand dollars. It’s a good bet that Craig will appeal the costs, but there are very limited options with that, costs are at the discretion of the trial judge and are difficult to overturn unless an error of law is made.

So where do these costs go? I believe not, as I had initially presumed, directly to Slater’s lawyers. Slater has been billed (indemnity costs according to the judgment) $564,730. That is substantially more than the costs awarded, but presuming that Slater has paid not paid all of his legal bills, that is a debt incurred by his lawyers.

Costs are not paid to the lawyers, they are paid to, in this case, the first defendant Slater, and the second defendant Social Media Consultants Limited (Slater’s company).

But with Slater being bankrupt any costs will go to the Official Assignee, and with Social Media Consultants being in liquidation costs related to the company will be under control of the liquidator.

Slater’s lawyers will have to line up with all other creditors to seek their share of what is available to be paid out. Blomfield is already a creditor as well.

But there could be another substantial debt to be added, incurred before bankruptcy and liquidation, but yet to be quantified.

An award of damages in the Blomfield versus Slater defamation is yet to be made. Despite the case already taking nearly seven years, I understand that the hearing on an award of damages won’t take place until next year, and it could take some time after that for the judge to make a decision.

The judgment on defamation between Craig and Slater was made on 19 October 2018, but the judgment on costs has just been made (6 June 2019).

The award of damages in Blomfield v Slater may not be known until 1-2 years from now. But as they were incurred before the bankruptcy and liquidation, and funds available will be apportioned to Blomfield and any other creditors like Slater’s lawyers. Even if Craig appeals costs that should be decided on by then.

The cost of clearing his name has been expensive. Blomfield’s legal battles with Slater have cost him many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may turn out that costs awarded to Slater in Craig v Slater may pay some of that back via through costs and damages incurred in Blomfield v Slater & Social Media Consultants.

But this may be even more complicated. Slater is still facing defamation in the action bought against him by Sellman, Swinburn and Bradbrook. If costs (either way) or damages are awarded there it could also affect things.

Note – I’m not a lawyer or debt expert, I’m just trying to get my head around how this all works.

Gavin Ellis on Whale Oil book: “a harrowing slaga” but enduring long form journalism

RNZ media commentator Gavin Ellis applauded what Margie Thomson’s book Whale Oil

Margie Thomson’s investigation into the Whale Oil blog suggests that books may be the most enduring type of long-form journalism.

Transcript (from 6:22)

Great cover on that book, it’s not a whale so much as a sort of a monster of the deep coming up from the bottom of the book.

I think it was Margie who said that a whale was inappropriate, too nice to depict Slater and the dirt he is infamous for.

I think the monster comes from Matt Blomfield’s famous wrestler grandfather Lofty, who created an octopus hold.

Whale Oil by Margie Thomson really is a harrowing tale about a man, a businessman called Matt Blomfield and his decade long fight to clear his name after it was besmirched in a pretty serial fashion by Cameron Slater on the Whale Oil blog.

The book itself, I thought Finlay Macdonald summed it up perfectly, let me just read you one sentence of what he said. he said:

“Many readers will need a shower after a session with this book, and and Margie Thomson is to be applauded for her willingness to go where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen could feel at home.”

And that’s really, this is a, when I say it’s an awful book, it’s a very very good book. What it said is really quite awful about the ability of social media to basically destroy the reputation of an innocent person, and she sets about disproving virtually everything that appeared on the Whale Oil blog.

Of course Matt Blomfield has won defamation cases against Cameron Slater over it, but it’s a harrowing slaga, saga, but the thing that impressed me most I think is that it shows, with books like this it shows that this sort of excellent very long form journalism, you know the book chronicles a saga over ten years.

It may be that the most enduring form of journalism that we have.

The work that we do as daily journalists is ephemeral, you know it’s here one day and gone the next. I used to hate people saying that today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrapper, but there’s an element of truth in that.

This sort of deep investigation, and of course she’s not alone, we have a number of other journalists who’ve written books about different subjects, Rebecca McPhee, absolutely, and I think that they do us a real service by having an enduring form of journalism.

Now of course books are not regarded as a news activity, which is a problem under the Privacy Act, which makes them vulnerable, more vulnerable than a daily journalist would be.

Whale Oil was carefully vetted by lawyer Stephen Price to avoid possible legal actions.

Even with proposed changes to the Privacy Act I don’t think that this form of journalism enjoys the same protection as news activities do.

However books have an advantage of time to check out their accuracy and reduce risks.

But nonetheless I really commend not only this book but the whole process of committing to books.

This sort of long form investigative journalism, it really is great reading but also the lessons in them remain for the future, and that’s something in daily journalism we’re in danger of losing, particularly with the avalanche of material that we have bombarding us every day that is so ephemeral and this sort of anchors it with a degree of permanence. let’s hope so anyway.

It’s true that newspapers are published and sold one day, and disappear off the newsagents’ shelves by the end of the day. Books remain for sale on bookshelves for weeks.

But publishing news online means that it does endure far more than it used to. It can be just a Google search away. Enduring news – and blog posts – provide a lot of readily available research material for books like Whale Oil.

The difference with well researched and written books like Whale Oil though is that they collate and filter and edit a vast amount of material – and there is a vast amount of material in the Matt Blomfield story.

One of the successes of Whale Oil is that Margie took a huge amount of information and made it interesting and readable, while putting on record an awful campaign of attack that took place over many years.

It was, as Ellis says, a harrowing Slater saga, or saga.

Statement from Matt Blomfield on ‘Whale Oil’ book

Statement from Matt Blomfield (posted on Facebook):


On Tuesday last week we had the launch for the book Whale Oil by Margie Thomson. It was an incredible and humbling experience. About three hundred people turned up. My wife and kids attended and afterwards they talked about what an amazing night they had with other friends and family.

This weekend with the dust starting to settle I looked back at the week that followed the launch and I felt uncomfortable. It was a busy week with media appearances and messages of support, and naturally there was a big focus on the details of my protracted battle against Cameron Slater. What got me thinking, though, was a book review on Newsroom by Finlay Macdonald – not his words but the image at the top of the page: Cameron Slater knocked out in the first round of his boxing match with Jesse Rider. He looks broken. I needed to beat Cameron in court in order to win back my reputation. It was never my intention to break the man.

Cameron Slater has had his struggles in life. He’s had business failures. He struggled with mental illness; he lost his home. More recently he has had health issues. It follows that my mind takes me to a place of sympathy for Slater. He has a wife and kids just like me; he has tried to succeed, just like me. I feel increasingly concerned at the tone of some of the comments about him that are appearing online. I know what it’s like first hand to be ridiculed online, to be bullied and it affects more than just the individual. It flows through to that person’s friends and family.
Slater is not well. His attacks against me are not the actions of a right thinking individual. He needs help.
I’m concerned that some of the coverage given to the publication of Margie’s book gives the impression this book is a tit-for-tat exercise. It’s not, and that’s clear to anyone reading it. Yes, it’s the story of my long struggle to rescue my reputation and get justice, but
it’s about much more than a fight between two individuals. It is about our changing world and a system that needs to change so that our children are protected. It introduces readers to some incredible individuals and shows that even during the hardest of times good people will stand up and be counted. It’s about never giving up, and that sometimes the decision to fight can come from a place of love, compassion and family. Finally, it’s about people as a whole and how we choose to live not only on the internet but as a society.

The people who have read the book have all had the same reaction; a feeling of surprise. It follows that those same people have expressed to me what an important book this is and how much it impacted them as individuals.

I am now going to focus on my family, my health, my education and hopefully move past this. My story has been told.

I hope that people will move past attacking what can be only be described as a damaged individual. Let’s put him where he belongs, in the footnote of history, and move on to talking about the important issues he only symbolizes.

 

Newsroom review: Whale Oil

Finlay Macdonald has a very good review of the Maggie Thomson written book on Matt Blomfield book, Whale Oil – Where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen go

Many readers will feel like a shower after a session with this book, and Thomson is to be applauded for her willingness to go where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen could feel at home. As she explains early on, her book was born from a footnote to Nicky Hager’s 2014 bestseller Dirty Politics, arguably the book that marked the beginning of the end for Slater by laying bare his methods and the scabrous demi-monde he inhabited.

Calling their vendetta “Operation Bumslide” (a lexicon of vulgar and puerile Slaterisms would make a short book in its own right), these detractors harnessed the then-popular Whale Oil machine to depict Blomfield as a fraudster, a thief, a liar, a pornographer and a lunatic. Strange and sinister things happened along the way, including a violent home invasion and assault, which was at the very least worthy of far greater scrutiny in the context of Blomfield’s other travails than the police gave it.

Being from the same publisher and with an admiring foreword by Hager, you could be forgiven for thinking Whale Oil might represent one dip too many into the same dank well of character assassination, paid hit jobs and vicious mockery of undeserving victims. It’s not. Rather, Thomson has constructed an elegant psychological study of both main protagonists, equally obsessional in their own ways, locked in a kind of death-embrace from which only one can emerge the winner, but which will leave neither unscathed.

The term Kafkaesque is over-used and mis-used, but Blomfield’s predicament surely meets the criteria. Defamed, denigrated and physically attacked, he was nevertheless incapable of defending himself through any normal channel. The police, the courts, the media, the bureaucracy all live down to Kafka’s vision of a system designed to serve only itself and its own absurd purpose. The more Blomfield struggles to extricate himself from this web of perfidy and stupidity, the more he appears fixated and vexatious to indifferent observers. The more he professes his sanity, the more insane he appears.

It really is a wonder that Blomfield didn’t go completely raving mad – or just give up, as so many of Slater’s targets did.

I think that many of Slater’s targets will be grateful that Blomfield had the determination and tenacity to see this through, as far as it has come at least – a successful defamation after over six years of delays and attempts at avoidance by Slater, and of course the book detailing it all.

But this shouldn’t be the end of it. It would be worth following through with more holding to account. There are serious unanswered questions about inaction by the police on a number of occasions, including doing nothing about attack death treats that came very close to a murder being committed.

And accomplices of Slater should be nervous about being held to account for their actions too.

When truth finally does arrive, albeit on crutches and with a bandaged head, it’s almost an anticlimax. Having gamed the courts for years, delaying and prevaricating (for much of the time continuing to gleefully defame and otherwise harass Blomfield), Slater has nothing to offer; no proof whatsoever that anything he posted was true, fair or reasonable. So he loses. But the outcome is less than our aforementioned primitive instincts for story might demand. Slater is a bankrupted wretch, those who conspired with him are untouched by the verdict.

Some are untouched, like Warren Powell, who (the book claims) probably paid Slater at least in part for the protracted attacks on Blomfield, and also Amanda Easterbrook, who has kept a low profile.

Others have been affected to an extent. Dermot Nottingham is now bankrupt as a result of court costs incurred after multiple unsuccessful private prosecutions, some related to the Blomfield saga. He is also currently serving a home detention sentence which includes a ban on him using the internet, but remarkably Blomfield wasn’t included in the prosecution of him on five charges of criminal harassment.

Marc Spring has been at least as involved in abuse, false claims, defamation and harassment as Slater and so far has avoided court action against him – more due to police inaction than anything. He continues to attack Blomfield, although his major online options are now limited. He conducted sustained attacks against Blomfield in 2015-2016 when Blomfield had a restraining order against him, but the police decided not to take action.

But Spring has been affected. His credibility, his employment, his business affairs and his family have all been victims of his obsession with trying to destroy others, this has become more a self destruction.

What animates the likes of Slater and the haters he attracts remains a mystery, other than that they lack normal empathy and a sense of decency.

This whole affair is bad enough on it’s own, but there are very important wider issues.

That they are enabled by the failings in our systems and our souls is more the point, and this necessary but unpleasant book should be required reading for anyone interested in reforming the media-legal nexus for the realities of the attention economy. That will be too late for Matt Blomfield, but at least he’s finally out of the shit, while those he wrestled are still in it.

Blomfield’s long fight has finally managed to prove his attackers were malicious and almost totally wrong, and he himself has won back some of what was taken from him. The book has resulted in almost universal sympathy, admiration and respect – as far as I have seen the only exception being a small number of Slater apologists at Kiwiblog (I was accused of hate speech there yesterday for being critical of Slater and his accomplices).

Things should get better now for Blomfield. He will never get back everything that was taken from him, he and his family will bear the scars of vicious attacks online and physically,

The same can’t be said for the trolls and the spiritually misshapen, who still claim to be victims (as bullies do when someone stands up to them), have shown no remorse, and show no sign of recovering from their self inflicted miserable situations.

The many identities of Marc Spring

The launch this week of the book Whale Oil understandably put Cameron Slater and his dirty blogging at the centre of attention. But he has been in some cases paid and aided, abetted and used by a number of accomplices.

Someone who has been closely associated with Slater in his sustained attacks on Matt Blomfield is an ex-business associate of Blomfield’s, Marc Spring. If anything he has done more for longer than Slater.

One way Spring has kept attacks going against Blomfield (and others including myself) is his use of many identities (pseudonyms) in his online activities.

How many identities? That’s hard to quantify, but it’s many. my guess is well over a hundred identities, if not many more.

Spring has used multiple identities to make it appear as if there is wider support for his claims, his false and misleading information, and his mistruths or lies.

From Whale Oil (the book):

..,an increasing number of nasty and inflammatory statements about Matt started  appearing on news sites and blogs, under many different names, this giving the appearance of many people hating Matt and saying he was dangerous and damaging.

It was at this point Dunedin blogger Pete George inadvertently poked the bear. Noticing a number of nasty comments about matt on his blog he allowed Matt – with whom he had no previous contact – a right of reply.

As a result George found himself targeted on Twitter, tagged on @laudafinem and @marcspring…

Things got much worse for George, who found himself embroiled in a length and expensive legal action taken against him by Dermot Nottingham. Marc Spring also served documents on him, as well as suggesting to George that he could be ‘fucked over’ as someone else had been on Whale Oil.

Following a few clues, George ‘began’ to think about things that could be related’.

In September 2015 he wrote to Matt to let him know what he’d discovered: a list of 47 aliases, all emanating from digital addresses related to Marc Spring.

(Excerpts from the book)

That number of identities astonished me (but it isn’t that many names, it was also included many email address identifications). They had started in January 2015, so over about eight months.

He used more since then, especially over the next few months when there was a major attempt to disrupt and discredit Your NZ. He continues too use multiple pseudonyms here. How many in all? I haven’t counted. Fifty, sixty, seventy perhaps. And that’s just here.

One common technique is posting a comment under one pseudonym, and then replying under one or more other pseudonyms that agree with or add to the original comment, trying to give an appearance of wider support and agreement for his accusations and attacks.

I’ve also seen similar methods used at Lauda Finem. It’s quite possible most comments there are by Spring and associates trying to give the appearance of credibility and support for the outlandish posts there. I believe that Spring has also either written or at least contributed to posts at Lauda Finem. Some of the later ones sounded deranged.

Spring has close associations with Dermot Nottingham, who was found last year by a jury and a judge to have been the main person behind Lauda Finem (Slater also has links to that website).

I also believe that Spring has probably been using multiple identities at Whale Oil, and I believe at Kiwiblog – there was a comment there this week that sounded very Spring-like to me.

It is likely he has used other identities elsewhere in social media.

Spring was blatantly and openly active on Twitter, often associating with @laudafinem in harassment of me, but has now tried to scrub that. But he has mostly acted anonymously.

It is hard to know whether Spring operated all these identities himself, or whether he had help. I know that Nottingham also used multiple identities, but they were identifiably different.

This use and abuse of pseudonyms has not only been a means of attack, abuse, harassment and defamation, they have also at times been done in breach of court orders.

It’s hard to imagine how Spring managed to manage so many identities, but to an extent that gave him away – he often tried to disguise himself when establishing a new identity, but eventually revealed the same old style and tricks. It became a giveaway when he inevitably attacked Blomfield. The manner in which he does this has become very familiar.

In ways Spring’s deception has been quite sophisticated, either carefully planned or from a lot of experience. But he couldn’t keep disguising his motives, which were to attack Blomfield, and anyone he considered a threat to his campaign of harassment.

This multi-identity deception is an abuse of the use of pseudonyms, and it makes things more awkward for the many people who legitimately and reasonable use pseudonyms (or more to the point, a pseudonym).

It means one has to be sceptical of online claims and campaigns. With experience it becomes easier to spot the pseudonym abusers, but only if you’re looking for it.

The use of multiple pseudonyms or switched pseudonyms is largely under control here at Your NZ. It happens, but I usually know when it happens.

Whale Oil in particular cannot be trusted. While I think it’s likely Spring has used multiple identities there it also looks to me like it is a common practice there – not of ordinary users, but of blog management. A few years ago Pete Belt was sprung giving a favourable review to  book Slater had published using an alias. Slater and Spring have worked together so it is not a surprise that they might use the same sort of deceptions.

From my experience and observations Spring has to be the king of fake online identities. And he is still at it.