Lidl Get All Legal

In Blog by Rashers Tierney7 Comments

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Looks like German discount superstore Lild are feeling slightly peeved off about a recent video highlighting worker issues at the store.

Today Broadsheet.ie  carried a story about how a law firm working for Lidl contacted Twitter over how, several users had circulated a link to a video challenging the discount stores treatment of workers. Twitter then issued an email to these users but so far has taken no action from their end to remove the posts.

Twitter user Suzy Byrne, author of the Mamanpulet.com  discussed being contacted by Twitter about her posts.

Mamanpoulet.com written by Suzy Byrne is a blog about news, current affairs, politics, and all things inbetween and roundabout. The blog has won Best News and Current Affairs Blog in the Irish Blog Awards in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and won overall Best Irish Blog in 2009. In 2011 Suzy won Blogger/Website of the Year in the National Lesbian and Gay Federation GALAS Awards.

The letters, passed on to us as PDF’s enclose several image grabs of statuses on Twiter.

In this regard, please find enclosed a sample of such tweets however, this is not an exhaustive list and there may be more. In the event that this material is not removed today, Friday 1 March 2013 we have advised our client to immediately issue proceedings against you which may include seeking injunctive relief.

Among the samples included are the Women’s Council of Ireland, Migrants Rights Centre, Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Mandate Trade Union and several individual activists.

What Lidl are taking issue with is several claims in the video. As the letters state:

In a YouTube posting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH73-9_5scM on 28 February 2013 which has been  tweeted on Twitter entitled “A Lidl Respect” includes serious defamatory comments without foundation  damaging the good name and reputation of Lidl and its employees. A sample of the comments are as follows: “Lidl breaches Employment Law” “Workers under constant pressure” “Has no respect for staff”. Lidl is not  operating “in accordance with the Law”, that Lidl requires “unpaid lunch breaks”, that Lidl requires “unpaid  overtime”, that Lidl treats its workers “like machines”, that Lidl “cuts corners in Health and Safety”. 

In addition, the comments section contains a post from “Skylark BS1981″which states: “you can smell Nazi Germany when you walk in the door”.

As many online commentators have noted, Lidl have effectively opened a hornets nest on themselves here – something many refer to as the Streisand effect.

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. The term is a modern expression of the older phenomenon that banning or censoring something often makes that item or information more desirable, and leads to its being actively sought out to a greater extent than it would have otherwise been.

Activist campaigns, using short and punchy tools like leaflets, viral videos and other propagandizing methods are going to make subjective, moral claims about the behavior of corporation or other intended targets.  What should the people in this video have done? Qualify each claim with footnotes to a dozen legal testimonies?

Using our obscene libel laws to silence this campaign, is not just ham fisted and a PR disaster – but in a climate where ill informed politicians are clamouring to control social media, it reeks of corporate bullying and opportunism of the highest order.

What ultimately springs to mind for me, is the infamous McLibel trial in the UK.

Have a gawk at what a Lidl legal letter looks like here and here

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