Bloggers & Moderators liable for blog
This article notes that a blogger has been fined 1.8 million
dollars for an article that he allowed to be published on his blog.
"The head of a local advertising agency has won $1.8 million in
damages after suing an author of a blog - known for its harsh and
sometimes crass criticism of elected officials, business leaders
and local media - for defamation."
Today a blogger must be aware of libel and defamation laws in 190
countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In this
Reuters article we see that Sun Microsystems has warned their
employee bloggers that embarrassing any Sun customer in a blog is
Sun's bloggers also
are cautioned to protect corporate secrets and that "using your Web
log to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, or your
co-workers, is not only dangerous but stupid."
According to the web page titled “NOTICE
- YOU HAVE BEEN SUED” the blog owner claims that he was sued for
comments like these, which he did not write (below is edited to
remove the name of defamed party):
Some of the
opinions are fairly harsh, with some people stating things like:
In my opinion, all
xxx is is just a bunch of cheep
everyday crooks. They should all be in jail.
xxx called me today at 4:34am in the
morning!!! What the F*@k ! They do not even check the time zones of
who they are calling? I line in Hawaii .. Can anything be done to
stop these people?!?!
This blogger also lists the
text of the
blogger libel lawsuit, which alleges that the Defendant is
responsible for the words of others, in this case because of his
alleged malicious intent:
15. Also at unknown
date or dates, Defendants maliciously published or caused to be
published false and defamatory information over the internet
concerning Plaintiff and Plaintiff's business.
16. Pursuant to
Defendant's malicious intent, the publication has been read by the
17. The false and
defamatory matter is calculated to damage Plaintiff's reputation,
and at the time Defendants published or caused to be published such
false and defamatory information about the Plaintiff over the
internet, Defendants knew that the information published was false
and defamatory and making such defamatory publication, Defendants
acted with malice toward the Plaintiff.
It's a wide world for the blogger
Blog and forum publishers have been successfully hailed into foreign
legal battles, and the current consensus is that the blogger must
know the scope of their liability across the planet.
The DMCA was designed to protect web
hosting services and ISP's and not web authors. In
article, a retired judge Fadeley notes that offering DMCA
protection to bloggers and web authors is a serious loophole in the
DMCA, and that new legislation is required to make bloggers and
"cyber bullies" responsible for damage to people. See
Time for DMCA reform
The “Read My Day” blog
site in England has published an excellent warning that suggests that British
responsible for all comments
published into their blogs:
Posting comments on the internet is akin to writing the same
comments to the letters page of every major national newspaper in
the world. The international scope of blogs mean that claims in any
country are possible - territorial limits are a thing of the past.
Bloggers must also be aware of their responsibilities as hosts of
discussions where comments are invited from readers. Any defamatory
comments made in other posts on the blogger's website may result in
the blogger being held responsible for those comments and being sued
Defamation legislation gives a defence where the
'publisher' (the blogging host) has no knowledge of the defamatory
remarks or no reason to suspect the remarks have been made. This
gives some protection to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but very
little comfort where the blogger has read and accepted comments on
his/her blogging pages. A prudent blogger must exercise editorial
control over comments to avoid this liability as a publisher of
Australia has similar laws to England, and this
libel web site notes that linking-to or otherwise republishing a
libel, is itself a libel:
In principle republication of a
defamatory statement is itself a libel.
It is no defence to say that what is published is merely a
repetition of a statement that was previously published and that
did not incur prosecution. In principle every person who repeats
or republishes a defamatory statement faces the same liability.
Australian law is an adversarial system,
in which a defamatory statement is assumed to be false and must
therefore be defended. Truth was allowed as a defence in
defamation for first time in the UK under the 1835 Libel Act but
- in practice - using that defence can be difficult.
To be completely safe,
some folks recommend that you turn-off blog comments to ensure
that you don't inadvertently publishing a libel on your blog:
However, some jurisdictions agree that the blog owner could be
held responsible if they “incited” the defamatory remarks or if they
selectively edit or delete the comments.
In the USA, you can be sued for “tortuous interference” if
comments defame, encourage harassment or interfere with someone’s normal course of
The North Carolina
Supreme Court has held that tortious interference with prospective
economic advantage occurs when a party interferes with the freedom
of contract and “not in the legitimate exercise of defendant's own
right, but with design to injure the plaintiff . . ." (see
Owens v. Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Hickory, N.C., Inc., 330 N.C.
666, 680, 412 S.E.2d 636, 644 (1992)).
This article also notes that in Germany, a forum moderator
is responsible for comments that are made in their forum:
A Hamburg court has
ruled that moderators of internet forums
are liable for content posted on their
sites. . . The new ruling means if
operators do not have enough in-house
resources to monitor forums, they should
"reduce the scope of their business
ruling also imposes the burden on forum moderators to approve
messages before publishing them, just like any other traditional
court held that a publisher would have been able to prevent
such incitations by "reviewing the content of the comments
before publishing them."
court clearly did not believe Heise Zeitschriften Verlag's
argument that constant reviewing of the content of more than
200,000 comments per month would be an unreasonable burden
on the publisher.
Alfred C. Frawley notes that allowing employees to blog during
work hours can expose the company to liability for a host of
“Established case law suggests an employer can be liable for
even unauthorized publication of allegations by an employee when
that publication occurred in performance of an employee's
note that company policies must be very strict regarding
blogging, and those companies that allow employees to blog do so
at their own peril:
fact that the employee chose an improper method of performing
his job does not shield the employer from liability and
certainly this logic can be applied to blogs where the employer
has encouraged legitimate discussion of reliable businesses.”
Frawley notes that blogs intensify the risk of liability for any
also may intensify the risk of liability for defamation,
copyright and trademark infringement, disclosure of trade
secrets or private customer information or other business torts.
Even comments posted to a blog by unrelated third parties may
rise to claims of corporate liability.”