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Twitter Used In MP Sting Operation

Brooks Newmark Accuses Sunday Mirror of Entrapment

Brooks Newmark is not the titular character of a Tesco own-brand James Bond spinoff. Instead, he’s the (now ex) Tory MP who has unwittingly become the centre of the Internet’s latest Twitter scandal. Last week, Newmark began chatting with an attractive girl online, who then encouraged him to send her explicit photographs of himself. Shortly after, he was resigning from his post as the MP for Braintree.

The girl, it transpired, was actually a freelance Sunday Mirror journalist by the name of Alex Wickham. Hands up if you didn't see that one coming.

Newmark resigned after the Sunday Mirror reported him sharing explicit photos with what he believed was a young model who had a penchant for middle-aged Conservatives. Of course, the person on the other end of the conversation wasn’t “Sophie Wittans”, Tory PR woman. Nor was it Malin Sahlen, the 22 year-old Swedish model whose photograph was used as bait without permission.

It’s one of those rare, juicy tabloid stories where absolutely nobody is in the right. Newmark, who is married, was obviously naive to share photos of such an explicit nature over a network as famed for anonymity as Twitter's (at least Google image search the woman first. That’s basics). But he's far from the only guilty party. The journalist responsible has been receiving just as much criticism online - if not more.

In fact, the model herself has spoken out about what has happened. She told Swedish news publication Aftonbladet, “I do not want to be exploited in this way and someone has used my like this feels really awful, both for me and the others involved in this [sic].” It’s not the first case of women’s bodies being objectified in a public online forum, although one would expect more class from a newspaper publication than a YouTube video.

Other girls' pictures were used in the sting, which targeted multiple Conservative MPs despite only finding success with Mr. Newmark. Another of the girls featured, 26 year-old Charlene Tyler from Boston, Lincolnshire, told the Daily Telegraph that she felt it was wrong for the Sunday Mirror to use her photograph without permission – especially when she isn’t even a model. She also claimed that what Newmark had done was far from “something to resign over.” She went on to say, “the newspaper’s taken it too far.”

Since the indecent incident, the Sunday Mirror’s editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley has apologised for the use of non-models' photos without permission. “We thought that pictures used by the investigation were posed by models but now know that some real pictures were used. At no point has the Sunday Mirror published any of these images, but we would like to apologise to the women involved for their use in the investigation.”

It’s an apology that doesn’t even acknowledge the debatable ethics of the sting operation as a whole.

Embley justified the story as a matter of “clear public interest”. Apparently, Newman's role as the minister for civil society and status as the co-founder of Women2Win is enough reason for us to deserve such a huge insight into his private life. Furthermore, it’s apparently worth sacrificing the integrity of numerous women to bring it to us.

In response to the story, Mark Pritchard, another of the MPs contacted by the Sunday Mirror, is lodging an official complaint with Ipso - the regulating organisation formed in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. This story may have outgrown its online origins, but it's far from over.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Twitter Used In MP Sting Operation Reviewed by Emile Cole on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 Rating: 5
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