“Talk amongst yourselves while I put my blindfold on.”

Mick’s former colleague at the Telegraph blog, Shane Richmond, has spotted a “disappointing” High Court ruling on the exemption for liability of Labourhome.org site operator Alex Hilton for a potentially libellous post above the fold that would also seem to apply to what’s said in the comments zone. From Shane’s post

In a judgment at the end of last month Mr Justice Stadlen ruled that even fixing the grammar or spelling in a users’ posts could make a publication liable for the content. Struan Robertson of Pinsent Masons, quoted on the Out-Law blog, said: “Even an attempt to filter for profanities or comment spam, if done manually, involves a risk for the publisher. If you want to be sure that you’re not liable for what your users say, the judge is basically saying you need to ignore user contributions completely until you get a complaint.” [added emphasis]

I usually try my best to do just that… [*ahem* – Ed] Oh, and Mick, I apologise in advance! Just in case…

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  • Alias

    “The fact that Mr Hilton on a few occasions removed blog posts on grounds of bad language, political provocation or offensiveness falling short of defamation again in my view makes it at least arguable that the service provided in respect of those individual blog posts and also in respect of the general service consisting of making available webpages on his website for such blogs to be posted consisted of more than mere storage.” – Mr Justice Stadlen

    If you, as an owner of a Blog, moderate a user’s post beyond your legal requirement to do so (i.e. deleting defamatory or copyrighted material promptly), then you become legally responsible for the content of the user’s post . Essentially then, if you moderate a post, then you had better be sure that you remove all of the offending material. The easiest way to do that is simply to delete the post rather than tinker with it.

    At any rate, if I owned a blog, I think I’d now transfer ownership of it to a limited liability company so that if I did fall foul of the law then I wouldn’t lose a large chunk of cash to lawyers.

  • Alias

    By the way, that’s EU law (with the national courts simply interpreting it) so there is no point debating the restrictions on your freedom as a nation because it is beyond your democratic powers to determine your own affairs in this regard. That’s what happens when you give your sovereignty away.

  • Alias, you are mistaken in thinking that if you have a blog you are responsible or liable for someone else’s comments posted to your blog. And leave everything as it is sent, unmoderated, with no host corrections or subjective omissions for whatever reason, for they can fundamentally change the emphasis of the meaning quite unintentionally if you do so, and may render the comment then more yours than theirs. Only if there is a valid complaint and request to remove something, and that will be something which will be drawn to your attention by whomever, do you then need to make a decision/stand.

    More arguments on the matter are discussed/shared in comments on this article ………. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/08/user_comments_ruling/

    Methinks, as far as I can know, that Slugger has got everything about right, and the community of posters in any good blog are usually its best policemen and soon put anyone right who may have stepped out of line and over the mark into dodgy territory. There are many thinking to peddle FUD to keep free speech from better educating the masses but if you speak the truth any attempt to repress it is bound to fail spectacularly, and deservedly so.