Government by WhatsApp appeal  – a re-think

Foxglove and The Citizens have been working together to challenge the use of disappearing message apps for government business for almost two years. In late April we posted this update, that The Citizens would appeal the recent High Court decision in the case. We disagree with the court’s decision because it suggests that even when the government breaks its own rules, citizens don’t have recourse to the courts to enforce them.

Sadly, The Citizens have had to rethink, and have made the difficult decision not to continue with the appeal.

The Citizens is a small non-profit dedicated to impact journalism and holding power to account. This year, their capacity to do this vital work has come under sustained attack. As you may know, one of their co-founders, Carole Cadwalladr, has been forced to defend a libel case against her – a case which Reporters Without Borders and 19 freedom of expression organisations have called a SLAPP suit (a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). This means it is a case intended to chill journalism by draining journalists’ time and creating a climate of fear. They are not afraid. But have had to spend vast quantities of time defending this case.

This has forced The Citizens to take a hard look at what other cases they pursue, and shepherd their time carefully. They’ve reluctantly concluded that they don’t have the capacity to fight this appeal – and with another claimant still in the mix, they must conserve their strength and allow others to carry on.

We couldn’t have been prouder to stand with them, and with thousands of you in this case. We’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has been part of this. We couldn’t have got this far without you.

Some of you generously donated to support the legal action. When we first brought the case, the courts awarded a cost cap, so the total amount of adverse fees would be no more than £50k. The Citizens will now have to pay those costs. 

To those of you who generously donated to help cover the costs of the appeal, The Citizens are writing to you to offer a refund. The rest of the pot, sadly, goes to cover the government’s costs. You can also email The Citizens to arrange your refund.

We’re proud to have brought a case that has shed important light on the threat to our society and democracy that disappearing messages presents. 

Thousands of you have been part of this. Together we’ve shown that government by WhatsApp is rampant, and the government breaks its own rules time and time again. That is an issue of huge public importance. We believe that the court has an important role to play, and we hope the Court of Appeal steps in. The team at the Good Law Project have announced they are taking this case to the Court of Appeal, so we will be following their progress closely.

We will continue to bring important cases like this one, to hold the government to account.

We can only do that with your support and if you’d like to stay up to date with all the updates on our latest work, hit the button below: