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  1. #1
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    Libel and the Forum

    For those who think our Administrators and Moderators are too harsh in the execution of their functions, the following article from "The Guardian" (UK) should give food for thought at the very least.

    Warning to chatroom users after libel award for man labelled a Nazi

    High court orders lecturer to pay 10,000 damages
    Lawyers say case confirms existing law applies on net

    Owen Gibson, media correspondent
    Thursday March 23, 2006
    The Guardian

    A political argument that erupted in a remote corner of cyberspace and descended into vicious name-calling could lead to a spate of libel actions by contributors to internet message boards, the man at the centre of the case claimed yesterday.

    The dark side of the blogosphere was revealed by a libel action brought by Michael Keith-Smith, a former Conservative party member who stood for Ukip in Portsmouth North at the last election. He said he was moved to sue after a woman with whom he was debating the merits of military action in Iraq began a campaign of name-calling that started by describing him as "lard brain" and culminated in falsely labelling him a "Nazi", a "racist bigot" and a "nonce".

    Article continues
    Tracy Williams, a college lecturer from Oldham, was ordered by a high court judge to pay 10,000 in damages, as well as Mr Keith-Smith's 7,200 costs, and told never to repeat the allegations.

    The case is one of the first of its kind between two private individuals to go to court and, said lawyers, highlighted issues that would become more prominent as internet usage continued to grow and blogging, social networking and community sites became yet more popular.

    Mr Keith-Smith told the Guardian that he took action after a debate about the Iraq war in 2003 on a Yahoo! message board with about 100 members turned ugly. "She was very pro-Bush. Initially, she called me lard brain and I wasn't particularly concerned about that. Then she called me a Nazi," he said.

    He has also taken action against a second poster, he said, with whom he claimed to have settled for a sum "in the region of 30,000".

    "They started saying I was on a sex offenders' list and that people shouldn't let me near their children," said Mr Keith-Smith, who is also chairman of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, which bills itself as "the leading voice of the radical Tory right".

    He resolved to take legal action after the pair accused his wife of being a prostitute. But once his solicitors petitioned the court to find out the identity of Ms Williams, who contributed to the forum under a pseudonym, the abuse got worse.

    "It's a matter of principle. I had no proof that anyone who read this took it seriously. I just didn't see why she should be allowed to get away with it," he said.

    Legal experts said the case should be taken as a warning to the millions of people in the UK debating contentious issues on message boards, in chatrooms and on their own blogs that the laws of libel applied just as they would if the comments were published in a leaflet or newsletter.

    But despite claims from some that Judge Alistair MacDuff's high court decision would hamper freedom of speech, most said the case merely provided confirmation of the existing law.

    "You can't say this is something that should just be allowed to carry on. I don't think it is going to open any floodgates; it's a quite sensible application of the law," said Caroline Keane, a partner at media law firm Wiggin LLP.

    But Mark Stephens, head of media law at Finer Stephens Innocent, said the case should trigger a wider debate about whether the libel law was best suited to deal with such cases. If a chatroom was self-moderating and had a limited circulation, he questioned whether such cases should ever reach court.

    Most such cases never reach court because most complaints tend to be to an ISP or site owner, which would take down the defamatory content as soon as it was notified and the person making the libellous allegations would back down.

    FAQ: Internet libel

    Should internet service providers be worried about libel?

    The issue of liability was a grey area for ISPs, but a workable system has developed through European and UK law whereby ISPs are not generally considered liable as long as they act to take down potentially libellous material when notified.

    Does this affect freedom of speech?

    Some have argued that in ISPs' haste to take down material complained about, they are in effect curtailing freedom of speech.

    Why haven't more of these cases come to court?

    Lawyers say cases between individuals have tended to be settled before reaching court.

    What about site owners?

    Uncertainty remains over whether a site owner such as the BBC would be liable, particularly if it claimed to moderate comments before they were added to a website.
    DJ
    ...I don't want to go among mad people Alice remarked, "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat ,"or you wouldn't have come here."

  2. #2
    CC Grandmaster antichrist's Avatar
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    DJ, I did refer to that story in Freedom of Speech Lost thread in this section when it first come out.

  3. #3
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by antichrist
    DJ, I did refer to that story in Freedom of Speech Lost thread in this section when it first come out.
    Hi A/C: If I found the right post - on 26 March - the case to which you referred was a Canadian one. This is a different one from the UK and UK cases are more likely to have an effect here than Canadian ones. I picked it up from a brief reference in last week's Guardian Weekly. My post is a longer article on the same case from the Guardian website.

    DJ
    ...I don't want to go among mad people Alice remarked, "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat ,"or you wouldn't have come here."

  4. #4
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Probably a good time to remind all users, especially firegoat7, that while some peripheral cases of potential defamation may not be modded by the mods unless a complaint is received, all posters are responsible for their own posts.

    In light of this future Godwin's law issues may be moderated where complaints are received.
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 08-04-2006 at 03:06 PM.

  5. #5
    Account Permanently Banned PHAT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Probably a good time to remind all users, especially firegoat7, that while some peripheral cases of potential defamation may not be modded by the mods unless a complaint is received, all posters are responsible for their own posts.

    In light of this future Godwin's law issues may be moderated where complaints are received.
    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE SHUT UP THE NAZI

  6. #6
    Account Permanently Banned firegoat7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonbot
    Probably a good time to remind all users, especially firegoat7, that while some peripheral cases of potential defamation may not be modded by the mods unless a complaint is received, all posters are responsible for their own posts.
    Why single me out for attention?

    What has this article got to do with Chesschat? We have no real idea what limits were transgressed nor are we in anyway in posession of any detail to any comments made on the other bulletin board in regards to the article mention. There is no context for judging whether the court ruling is someting to be worried about, since we have no empirical description of what was said on the other bulletin board , except for a media report (beatup?) . Therefore it is highly irresponsible of you to warn us that we will be moderated for transgressing a boundary that has not been articulated.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonbot

    In light of this future Godwin's law issues may be moderated where complaints are received.
    Ridiculous, if anybody is continuing a media beat up here it is you. Not only is Godwins law not legal law. Neither is their any legal understanding of the issues involved in the article example, just media hype over a story we know very little about. But, hey don't let that worry you. You now have an imagined precident for becoming even more of a tool

    cheers Fg7

  7. #7
    Account Permanently Banned firegoat7's Avatar
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    Just to continue my point,

    The Guardian only mentions in passing these points, which I found on another BB site.

    'Addressing him as "Lardarse" or "Lardbrain", she also alleged that he had sexually harassed a female co-worker, had been charged with soliciting boys and cottaging and that he was a sexual deviant of the most perverted kind.'

    It is interesting that they (The Guardian) choose to highlight the word Nazi but hardly mention the other allegations which are far worse. What makes it worse is that Bonbot wishes to moderate us, basing his hysterical overreaction on imagined transgression of the libel laws!

    cheers Fg7

    P.S. Can anybody find the actual court transcriptions? I would appreciate a look at them, PM if you can.

  8. #8
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Sweeney
    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE SHUT UP THE NAZI
    That was not your first attempt at that post. Your first attempt was a five letter vulgar acronym. You edited that one in later.

    Of course, you can say that about me, since I will certainly not be lodging a mod complaint about that attempt to prove yourself a fool in public!

    Quote Originally Posted by firegoat7
    It is interesting that they (The Guardian) choose to highlight the word Nazi but hardly mention the other allegations which are far worse. What makes it worse is that Bonbot wishes to moderate us, basing his hysterical overreaction on imagined transgression of the libel laws!
    The hysterical overreaction is yours - I only used the word "may"! Of course if such a complaint was made we would investigate and consider it thoroughly.

    You are quite right that the Guardian does not highlight the extent to which particular allegations contributed to the judgement, and nor does any other source I can obtain. However the fact that all available sources (this was quite widely and independently reported) refer to her being asked to not repeat the allegations, as opposed to not repeating some of them, suggests they were all considered defamatory.

    Why single me out for attention?
    You have a history of complaining about Godwin's Law and attempting to defend the right of people to make bogus Nazi/fascist era calls.

    Lay off on the bold, you're overdoing it.

  9. #9
    Account Permanently Banned PHAT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    That was not your first attempt at that post. Your first attempt was a five letter vulgar acronym.
    It was a actually a four letter shorthand with the most brief of punch lines, one letter. So, stfun.

  10. #10
    CC International Master ElevatorEscapee's Avatar
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    It's all st fun and games until someone loses an i.

  11. #11
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Sweeney
    It was a actually a four letter shorthand with the most brief of punch lines, one letter. So, stfun.
    So what? It was an acronym of your own creation that you obviously didn't consider good enough for a first attempt.

    Besides, the last letter should have been a g. If we must play this stupid game, then I am no ordinary low-rank Nazi, and you should refer to me on this BB as Gruppenfuhrer.

  12. #12
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    So what? It was an acronym of your own creation that you obviously didn't consider good enough for a first attempt.

    Besides, the last letter should have been a g. If we must play this stupid game, then I am no ordinary low-rank Nazi, and you should refer to me on this BB as Gruppenfuhrer.
    Or even better, Obergruppenfuhrer

    DJ
    ...I don't want to go among mad people Alice remarked, "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat ,"or you wouldn't have come here."

  13. #13
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Indeed. The Nazi ranking system is quite complicated. I take it Rincewind would be ReichsFuhrer.

  14. #14

  15. #15
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    On another board I post on, a poster and the board owner are being sued after the poster described a prominent Tassie media figure as a "a kind of part-time Goebbels to the Lennon regime". (Lennon being our premier). Will be interesting to see how this pans out.

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