Blogging and libel…

ON the discussion on libel and blogs, it seems as though the law is largely untested (but do you want to be the first?!), and there appear to be a helluva lot of grey areas. Guido thinks he has some neat tricks to get him off the hook – he’s hosted abroad, is an Irish citizen and holds his assets overseas. But after listening to Simon, I’m not sure that any blogger could make himself legally fireproof!

  • Not much up on the law myself, only did a tad in college. I presume the fact that there’s so many grey areas is a good thing for bloggers? Does it make it harder to sue someone for libel?
    Might be no harm taking precautions anyway. As mentioned host abroad, but host with a hosting company who doesn’t care what your content is OR if you can afford it host yourself. But then can they complain to your ISP?

  • William Joyce

    Ahem! This has been tested on several occasions and ISPs have had to kow tow and take down stuff and damages have been paid. In the USA. It has to be worthwhile so a big site with lots of hits is needed. If Slugger says a Galway councillor is a w-r, it might be hard for the offended party to say serious damage was done, esepecially if Slugger too reasonable steps to remove etc the offending crap. If yahoo or a well visited blog say it, it could be a different story. And the offender could be sued in a number of jurisdictions the clicks came from, as each click would constitute a different publication. Ahem,!

  • Pete Baker

    Well, I’ll ignore the suggestion that Slugger doesn’t get significant numbers in terms of internet traffic from a variety of locations.

    “esepecially if Slugger too reasonable steps to remove etc the offending crap.”

    That, William, is one of the reasons why we moderate comments.

  • William,
    Do you know how far they can go with the ISP? And also, what can the ISP actually do if you’re running your own site? Does anyone know the technical side of this? Can an ISP deny a user internet access or a site or how does it work?

  • William Joyce

    Pete Baker: I am discussing the law, not Slugger. Can you not see that?
    In libel, damage must be done to the living. That is intertwined with a large number of hits, each of which can be taken as a separate publication (think moves against email spammers).
    In the nature of blogs, it is easy to get something wrong, espeically in the 6 cos where a dirty war was/is being fought. So, if Slugger alleges the President is Sinn Fein is or ever was a member of the IRA (Oglaigh na h-Eireann) etc, Gerry Adams would be within his rights to sue.

    Why? Because Gerry Adams could allege that as a result of Slugger’s alleged libel, he has suffered distress and that his friends are avoiding him as they think he was a member of an illegal “terrorist” group.
    Please feel free to reply to this and I will pull a rabbit out of my hat.

    As regards moderating, If Gery Adams brought these allegations to the attention of Slugger and if Slugger could show they redressed the situation by removing the scurrolous attacks on Gerry’s character, well then Gerry could go f-k himself because the damage would be minuscule. Think Albert Reynolds and the Times.

    Och sure, to put your out of your misery and not to win an easy point. Many years ago, Gerry Adams retained a solicitor to inform the Irish Times that linking him to the above was acrionable and for the Irish Times to print a retraction which they kindly did.

  • Pete Baker


    From the limited examples I can call to mind, it doesn’t take much more than the threat of legal action for an ISP to stop directing traffic to a particular site. As for running/hosting your own site.. think bandwidth provider rather than content.

  • I’m just wondering then about all the hate sites that are out there. Why aren’t they shut down? Is libel considered more serious that spreading hate that an ISP would take action in a libel case but not in other cases, or how does it all work?

  • Pete Baker


    Slugger is not above the law.

  • Pete Baker

    Spreading hate is not quite as well defined as libel, maca.

    Think of free speech, especially in terms of the US constitution.

  • William Joyce

    An ISP can shut you down no problem. Let;s say you are ruinning a dubious porno site from Dublin? They’ll deball you quicker than you can slanderously say “Gerry A…. is a ……”.

    The problem here is Slugger publisheds without signing a contract. A book pulisher would get all kinds of modifiers in there, ensuring they weren’t in the firing line.
    Now let’s say I publish a book alleging Berie Ahern takes money under the counter. Sue a dog get a flea. So Bertie would sue my publisher as they have bigger books bucks. So the publisher will stop me writing stuff unless it has gone thorough the legal mill and will cover litigation costs.
    Think of South Park outing the litigous Scientologists. They put that stuff through the legal mill first.
    Thgink of Napster etc. They go after the students’ ISPs as well as the students as the ISPs are the publishers.
    So, suing Slugger would be of little use as Slugger would be replaced by Pugger and Dugger etc. But going after the ISDP would shut Slugger and its clones up. But it would have to be worth it.

  • Yeah, I was thinking that alright. Just seems a bit fucked up.
    I also don’t like the idea that an ISP would be so quick to act in such cases.

  • Thx William.

    So I guess hosting your own site isn’t such a good idea if you want to insult the heck out of someone. Scratch that idea so.
    However, what if I host in Russia? Now there’s an idea. The Russians might be more flexible.

  • William Joyce

    Spreading hate can be fair comment or, most likely, malicious and slanderous. If you publish it on the Internet, you can be sued wherever the hits are generated, not just in the USA.
    Check out these sites

    I personally don’t approve of the crusade in Iraq but these Protestant assholes picket funerals of GIs and they were going to picket the funerals of the Amish kids killed by a nutter. Most of the members of the Wetboro Baptist Church are lawyers and they sue and counter sue like crazy on the grounds of free speech.
    Have a look at their site which is less than charitable to the Swedish Royal Family, who owould like to sue them but imagine they might score an own gioal in the process.

  • Pete Baker

    “So, suing Slugger would be of little use as Slugger would be replaced by Pugger and Dugger etc. But going after the ISDP would shut Slugger and its clones up. But it would have to be worth it.”

    That’s where you’re mistaken, William. Mick has taken a lot of time and effort, and expense, as to a lesser extent have many others, building Slugger’s reputation as an acknowledged area for free discussion on NI topics, with the occasional diversion.

    It’s one of the reasons why it’s necessary to protect that reputation as an arena for informed debate.

  • Bästards! They’re seriously f**ked up!

  • Pete Baker

    I said informed debate, maca ;o)

  • William Joyce

    It depends on how much damage you are doing. If you are not doing porno etc, if you are not getting seriously heavy traffic, chances are you are fine.
    Hosting a site means you want to be o nthe main backbone, USA, Hong Kong etc. Hosting with the Russian mafia if you are not doing something blatantly illegal, no.
    There are some maxims
    sue a dog, get a fleat
    don’t rush to the law.
    Let’s say Slugger has a photo of that DUP guy in Newry in the gay situation and he sues. Well Slugger can remove the pics and get them posted somewhere else or virally spread them. Now Slugger might just do this for the crack, in which case little can be done.
    But if Slugger hates Peter Bury/ Gery Adams whoever, then the offended party could get a cease and desist order and hit back hard. But it would cost bucks and would have to be worth it.

    And AOL and others have got their backsides bitten by the Net. So they have to judge the damage and see how to respond and in what kind.

  • William Joyce

    Peter Baker
    I am not discussing Slugger as Slugger but Slugger as a website/blog. I could have used any other blog or website instead.
    Slugger has one business model. The loonies of hte Westboro Baptist Church have another. And htye are not above the law either but they do push it to the extreme.
    And please note my example of Gerry Adams and the Irish Times. Gery Adams has a reputation and he will probably one day have ot sue over it. But it won’t be Slugger he sues. Maybe a Securocrat blob that the media pick up and he gets bushwhacked like poor Slab did.

  • Pete Baker


    When you comment here, you’re commenting on Slugger

    Most of the moderators have been doing that thankless task for some time, and they, generally, have a good eye for what breaches Slugger’s Commenting Policy and what doesn’t.

    After some time you might end up agreeing with their assessments.

  • William Joyce

    I am commenting on libel from a legal view, the same way I am commenting on Gerry Adams from a legal view.
    ON the discussion on libel and blogs, it seems as though the law is largely untested: not quite right. There are precendents as per posts above.

    lot of grey areas.Yes as it is new technology that can transcend jurisdictions in many ways.

    Guido thinks he has some neat tricks to get him off the hook –
    he’s hosted abroad: I have addressed this.
    is an Irish citizen: he is still subject to the law of the land in which litigation happends (precendents exist)
    and holds his assets overseas.: addressed. Go after the ISP if the stakes are big enough.

    But after listening to Simon, I’m not sure that any blogger could make himself legally fireproof: This is common sense or “we” would be washed in a sea of lawsuits. Napster etc are important there as precedents.

  • William Joyce

    Peter Baker
    I am not sure what point you are trying to make. In the conext of this thread, the possible takeover of youtube by google is of interest as copyright infringement cases would most likely follow. Until copyright issues cloud the landscape, libel suits are unlikely to appear. IMHO of course.
    Bye for now.
    I might pop in to gloat about the soccer but I have little *new* to add here. I do imagine if sites really take off big time they would have to retain proper legal counsel just as newspapers do.

  • Pete Baker

    “I do imagine if sites really take off big time they would have to retain proper legal counsel just as newspapers do.”

    Therein you display your mis-understanding of blogs.. and Slugger in particular.

    Guido is not, by the way, an appropriate comparison for many reasons. Not least the fact that, unlike Guido, Slugger aims to cater for a wide variety of opinions.. not just the salacious end of political gossip.

  • Pete Baker

    To paraphrase maca’s comment from earlier, William.

    If you want to create a blog like Guido’s.. feel free to create your own – It’s not that difficult to start.

    Alternatively, if you want to try to turn Slugger into the same.. you’ll find there’s resistance on many levels.

  • William Joyce

    Peter: Again, I am trying to discuss the law, which blindly applies to all. What are you trying to discuss? Now, imho, if Slugger, Napster or any other site got really big, they would need legal counsel if operating in a litigous world. This would be as a matter of course and is probably done informally until some big monster raises its head.
    Mick Fealty has started a large number of threads on blogs, indicating his interest in same, not just in Slugger.
    I am more interested in libel and the Internet than in blogs or this blog in particular. Guido’s blog does not particularly interest me – I have looked at it a few times – but the remifications of him being sued interest me a lot.
    The discussions here do not interest me as much as how they are turned and how “protagonists and antagonists” can dig up the most amazing of things to support their case.
    I have my own take on people who libel the GAA, I am interested in the soccer debacle and I am genuinely appreciative of getting the sad but illuminating information on Kieran Nugent.
    Now I am going to make a phone call to advise a Brit on how to handle a pending libel case almost totally unconnected with the Internet. Enjoy the approaching Sabbath.

    As regards my understanding or lack thereof of blogs: I have read around the area. Now let us say the Irish Times libels Gerry Adams. If a site reprints the story, they too could be in the legal firing line. I do recall coming across the number of the amount of blogs out there. I am sure they will be thinned out over time.

  • Pete Baker


    You miss the very straightforward assessment, in relation to your contributions to Slugger.. the moderators – who have some experience in this matter – will, ultimately, decide whether you have crossed that line. End of.

    If you wish to dispute a moderation then email Mick.

    While you claim to wish to discuss the law, this is the reality that every other commenter must face..

    In short, it’s not just about you, William, it’s about everyone else too.

  • William Joyce

    We must be on different planets. I am trying to respond ot the thread theme. You are discussing me and moderation, a different matter. Bye.

  • And I don’t have a clue what the both of ya are talking about. Do ye?

  • William Joyce

    Maca: There are certainly cross purposes here. I am trying to respond to the post in a general way, using extraneous examples I am familiar with.
    Regarding spreading hate ideas: is interesting in this respect. It is one of the most heavily visited forums/a in the world and it carries a very heavy hate brew. It is US based, thus allowing European, Australian etc domiciled Nazis to sound off. Its owner learned his trade in jail before going on to help David Duke.

    The Westboro Baptist Church, which is a mini army of inter related lawyers, are another excellent example. Legislation has been and continues to be passed to restrict them. In these two cases, it could be argued that a media onslought might cripple them, if their legal avenues to redress were also stymied.

    Britain is not the USA and has a long history of using and abusing the “crime” of conspiracy. Following the 7/7 attacks new anti hate legislation was passed. This could easily be used against on line hate peddlers especially if incitement was attached to it.

    Then there is online child pornography, possession of which is a crime and suspicion of which allows cops to scan hard disks etc. So much for personal privacy defences. (I have no personal objection to the cops doing any of this)

    You also had the recent raids into London internet shops in the search for jihadist warriors. So, when push comes to shove, the authorities are prepared to shove.

    And I should not forget my own name here. Gemrany, Austria and some other countries have strict laws against denying the Jewish Holocaust as David Irving can tell you when he gets out.
    So breaking that might be a no no in Germany. There have been cases, including selling Nazi era knick knacks and, given the rise of ecommerce, these cases have no been confined ot Germany.

    Interestingly, seems to be hosted in Germany and it is one of the main sites for getting hot software etc. Yet no legal action there so far.

    Companies liek McDonalds regularly threaten to sue cyber squatters unless they surrender their names for a nominal fee. When these are taken against innocent children etc, they make a big splash.

    So there are precedents galore to go on. If the drift to the Net ocontinues, lawyers will go with the flow and more lawsuits will follow.

  • William Joyce

    Further to my exchanges with P Baker, here is an interesting article on making a fortune from suing bloggers. Plus this fuller story: