17-year-old Milifandom leader harrassed by The Sun


Until recently, the 17 year-old teenage girl leading the hugely popular #Milifandom movement was known to the world at large as @twcuddleston. We didn’t know her name or her location… we just knew that she liked stuff, and that one of the things she liked in particular was Labour politican Ed Miliband.

The joy! Example tweet from a Milifan:

This grassroots movement – comprised largely and splendidly of teenage girls – positions Labour politician Ed Miliband as a bit of a political hottie, delighting in all his ways. Its leader, @twcuddleston, explains:

The movement’s one more bit of proof (as if any were needed) that young people think about politics. And hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with fancying people,  anyway. Or being a teenage girl.

The thing is, why should any of us know teenager @twcuddleston’s full name, or where she lives, or any of that invasive stuff? It’s totally not our business. But a Murdoch-owned UK tabloid newspaper changed all that when The Sun tracked down Abby’s family to chase the story. They even doorstopped her grandma, which is how her dad found out about the Milifandom in the first place:

When challenged by Abby herself, a reporter from the Sun claimed that Abby’s details had been legally secured from the electoral register. This doesn’t make sense, because Abby is 17 and not yet old enough to vote:

Let’s be really clear, here: A 17 year-old girl never gave out her last name or location, yet the Sun found her using an electoral register which she can’t possibly be on because she’s only 17. But the Sun’s journalists want to make it clear they only used legal means to track her down. But other than giving a reason which doesn’t seem true (“we found you on the electoral roll which you’re not on), they haven’t explained what those reasons are.

As events continue, Conservative MP Louise Mensch has been saying that Abby was asking for press, to which Abby had the following response:

Louse Mensch also pulled out the big guns against her teenage opponent and intimated that Abby’s coverage of what was happening to her was politically biased… because she was villifying right wing paper The Sun for knocking on her door without saying a bad word about left-wing paper The Sunday Mirror doing it too. Again, Abby has responded:

The rise of Milifandom was always political. Now it’s getting even more political, and dirty with it. Professional adults are going to hurl every trick in the book at a 17-year-old (who is standing her ground fantastically), because politics.

At the end of the day, resolving the key issue of how The Sun acquired Abby’s personal details would be the most positive and useful resolution.

When Hannah Jewel covered this story for Buzzfeed News, The Sun provided Buzzfeed News with the following statement:

The Sun sought to speak to Abby as she was at the centre of a news story and had already commented in public to The Guardian. Her address was discovered through completely legal means from information in the public domain.

A female journalist was sent to see if there was any scope for comment, and her mother said “No”. This journalist did not see nor speak to Abby, but did leave a business card in case Abby changed her mind.

The Editors’ Code prevents journalists from interviewing children under the age of 16 without consent. Even though Abby is 17, The Sun first sought to speak to her parents. The Sun has still not spoken to Abby at all, unlike various other newspapers, and no story has been published. We entirely respect her wishes not to speak to us.

We do not think our behaviour – which follows standard journalistic practice – was in breach of the Editors’ Code or in any way unethical.

Abby’s grace under a great deal of fire is so unbelievably good, and she’s just one of many passionate and thoughtful teenagers out there. The thing about the Milifandom is it’s not all #milibae quips and floral wreaths (though these things are a joy in themselves). It’s also politics, whichever flavour of political ice-cream is your favourite, and it’s about young people feeling extremely bloody informed about and invested in their future, and can the world at large please not forget it?

So. Questions. Many questions. Also, one important question. How exactly did The Sun secure enough personal details about Abby to approach her family? Could the information have been gleaned through Facebook? Payment for info from people who knew her? IP addresses? However it was done, it was definitely shady. Definitely invasive. But illegal? The Sun’s statement to date doesn’t really say how it got Abby’s family address in the first place, and we’re waiting.

Main photo: Twitter