End of the Foul Fingered Web?

Slagging people on the internet anonymously is one thing. Today’s Irish Independent reports:

For years, ethereal internet buffs have boasted cyberspace is immune from earthly jurisdictions, but foul-fingered Irish citizens hiding behind the once invincible e-shroud of anonymity could be about to come down to earth with a bang.

Yesterday, High Court Judge Michael Hanna directed that American Internet Service Provider (ISP) Godaddy.com, which is hosting the controversial rateyoursolicitor.com website, be served with notice of a groundbreaking internet libel action unfolding in the Four Courts.
The case involves a Dublin-based barrister, who claims she has been grossly defamed on the site.
She is not alone. Individual solicitors, barristers and even members of the judiciary have all fallen victim to derogatory comments by anonymous “posters” on the internet portal.
“Irish” websites – hosted by ISPs outside of the reach of Irish laws – are causing a major headache for maligned individuals, companies and even the operation of the courts.
Earlier this year, a high-profile murder trial at the Central Criminal Court was almost collapsed after prejudicial comments were posted on the Dundalk blog The El Paso Times.
The rateyoursolicitor.com saga is significant as it is the first time the boundaries of online libel will be tested in this jurisdiction.

  • Rory

    Given the already rock-bottom abysmal esteem in which lawyers are already held in the public perception I am at a loss as to how one could possibly have his reputation suffer by libel.

    Though I suppose accusing one of something absolutely gross like child-molestation or smoking in public or failure to pursue a balanced macro-biotic diet might be pretty bad. And then there’s always wearing socks with sandals.

  • Southern Observer

    This is disappointing.I thought you were signalling the end of Andrew McCann’s magnum opus.

  • Godaddy could tell them to sod off and sue in the US – that is the attitude Spamhaus (a UK operation) are taking to a default judgement in Michigan.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/15/spamhaus_lawsuit_flap/

  • Does this mean we’ll have to qualify every friggin statement with “allegedly” just like tv news? Or maybe we should put a question mark at the end of all our (former) statements – as The Daily Show observed many news networks doing.

    How I miss those halcyon days of the interweb prior to the coining of that ever grating term “information superhighway”. Those glorious flamewars on rec.games.bolo and between rgb and the hated nettreckers!

    Is truth a valid defense against defamation?

  • Rory

    Is truth a valid defense against defamation?

    I am afraid the short answer to this question, Robert, in UK law at least is “No”. If the person suing against an alleged defamation is rich and influential you may find that the truth of the allegation may only serve to be considered as having aggravated the offence.

    Think Lord Archer, Liberace, and (although in a criminal non-libel trial) Jeremy Thorpe.

    And this is of course as was intended, for the very purpose of libel laws was to protect the rich and rotten from any harmful consequences that spreading the truth about them might occasion.

    I am afraid that in this matter it is not so much a question of “..and the truth shall set you free” but rather that uttering the truth might well see you deprived of your freedom, if for example, criminal libel is alleged.

    .