The former chair of the Press Complaints Comission has answered questions on her handling of the phone hacking scandal.
Under Baroness Peta Buscombe the commission produced a report in 2009 into allegations made against the News of the World, over which she later resigned.
She said: “This is a report which with hindsight, and so on, I regret… I regret that I was clearly mislead by News International and that I accepted what they had told me. I felt all through the process somewhat hands-tied by merely being able to ask questions.”
She told the inquiry the PCC did not have the appropriate powers to investigation the matter and she had been frustrated by the limited powers of the body.
She said: “It was rather one of those: you’re dammed if you do and you’re damned if you don’t… People were misconstruing our role.”
She added: “We would have been accused of being useless for doing nothing. It’s very, very difficult… At the time we felt we did have a regulatory role in a sense to perform, there was nothing else.”
Buscombe said politicians had attacked the PCC instead of taking on the press and said the organisation had been made a scapegoat. She blamed the Press Board of Finance and National Newspaper Association for not supporting the commission and enforcing the credibility of the system.
She said critical rulings have a massive effect on newspapers and told Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, she had been on the receiving end of furious newspaper editors after issuing adjudications and explained proprietors had to be approached with great care.
She added: “These are very powerful people who have a view about the system is. You have to tread carefully to get access.”
The baroness told the chairman he had a “tough call” in how to rebuild trust between the public and a future regulator. She praised the current commission for working minimise harm and hurt suffered by complainants and providing quick and free access to redress, and advocated a kite mark system as a “marker of trust” for online publishers.
She added: “The upside is to create a system which can rebuild trust between the press and the public, which of course is paramount, but which allows freedom of expression.
“For the most part we’re talking ago an industry where people have and continue to play by the rules. The inbuilt culture of newsrooms has to be thought through.”
Ronald Zink, chief operating officer in Europe of Bing, the Microsoft search engine, also gave evidence in the morning.
He told the inquiry his company worked on a case-by-case basis when considering whether to remove online content.
He added: “We actually don’t differentiate between defamatory material and privacy-invading material. I can tell you our practice in the UK would be the same for invasion of privacy as it would for defamation.”
Zink agreed with David Barr, junior inquiry counsel, that victims have very little redress for invasions of privacy that have gone “viral” on the internet and said Microsoft would be willing to consider direction from a future press regulator online.
He said the company would be happy to make avenues of redress for UK users clearer in Microsoft’s global user statement.
Colin Crowell, head of global public policy for the social network Twitter, explained the company had the right to remove content but would only do so following a legal request, and said disclosure of account details would only be considered under a court order.
Crowell understood how widely information could be spread on the network and said the company was “recognising the counters of freedom of expression may differ from country to country”.
He added: “It depends on the subject, it depends who is tweeting it and retweeting it. During a major events… tweets can propagate very quickly out of a particular jurisdiction.”