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Kiobel v Shell hoax could constitute a criminal offence

By John Donovan

We broke the news yesterday morning of an elaborate hoax in which fake emails purportedly from Shell, were apparently sent to 71,000 Shell employees in relation to the Kiobel v Shell case currently before the US Supreme Court.

Extracts from related news reports about the hoax:

BloombergBusinessWeek article: Activists send fake email to Shell workers

HOUSTON (AP) — Two activist groups said Tuesday they sent an email to more than 71,000 Shell Oil employees that pretended to be from a fake company division and provided information about a U.S. Supreme Court case involving the company.

The groups, People Against Legalizing Murder and the Yes Lab, said that on Monday they sent the email that purported to be from Shell’s “Grassroots Employee Empowerment Division,” which doesn’t exist.

Salon.com: Aided by Yes Men, activists strike at Shell

Faked internal emails alert employees to the oil giant’s record in Nigeria

Shell blocked employees’ access to an activist website providing information about harm wrought by the oil giant’s drilling plans in West Africa.

In a Yes Men-aided stunt, activist group People Against Legalizing Murder (PALM), posing as an internal Shell division, emailed 71,010 shell employees directing them to a site with information about a human rights case — Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum — being argued by the U.S. Supreme Court. The email encouraged recipients to spread the word and even tweet their feelings on the case to Oprah.

This latest hoax targeting Shell does not have the novelty or hilarity of the recent Greenpeace anti-Arctic drilling campaign that generated massive publicity.

I received an email from a very senior official at Royal Dutch Shell that leads me to conclude that use of the email database could constitute a breach of  UK data protection laws and be a criminal offence?

I therefore hope the activists responsible this time have obtained legal advice, as they may well be in danger of investigation by UK authorities.

US Supreme Court Justices are also unlikely to be amused.

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