British Bloggers face strict journalist standards
Web Tips by Donald K. Burleson
Web Stalkers: Protect yourself from
Internet Criminals & Psychopaths,
$19.95 by Rampant TechPress.
Most countries have laws against libel and
defamation, but these laws are especially strict in the United
Kingdom, Canada and Australia, countries which strongly respects the rights of people not to be
view of web libel
Canada, the UK and Australia for their advanced laws regarding libel
and defamation, and I hope that the USA soon adopts the same strict
laws to defend their reputations. Fortunately, the USA laws
are catching-up to the more enlightened laws of the UK, Canada and
now have criminal
libel laws for web libel & defamation.
This USA article
notes that a jury has awarded 11.3 million dollars against a blogger
who committed libel against an innocent woman by posting that she
was a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud" on an internet message
"Scheff, who bills herself as an
educational consultant, "tried to do something to help other parents
and she wound up sort of being the object of hateful and vindictive
statements," Pollack said. Scheff and her company sometimes get paid
for their referrals.
The message of the verdict "is you just
can't go out there on these blogs and slander and defame people
without having any facts to substantiate what you are stating,"
Inflammatory remarks can be criminal offenses
England, nasty remarks are crimes if they are found to be
"inflammatory", as this case where a man was sentenced to
3 years in prison for posting
inflammatory remarks on a web site:
"Judge Henry Globe QC,
the recorder of Liverpool, told Martin: "The intention of the
website was innocent, honourable and well motivated.
"You accessed that website and you abused its use. You posted
highly abusive, insulting and racist messages on the site."
ethical standards - Truth is no defense
This article "Publish
and be dammed" notes that English professionals on the Internet
are held to a strict standard for defamation where even true
publications are actionable if they tend to defame someone.
author of the defamatory statement will be liable for any damage
it is alleged to cause to the reputation of another.
So just as a print journalist may be liable, so too will the
message board poster."
Evidently, truth is not a defense in the UK
and it's illegal to "smear" someone, even if you are publishing
"Statements are defamatory if:
- they identify a
particular individual or organisation (either by
name or by innuendo);
- they tend to lower the subject
in the eyes of right-thinking members of society
such that damage to reputation may be presumed; and
- the statement is published, that is, communicated to
a third party."
Evidently, under British law, publishing on the web
is exactly the same as publishing in a magazine or
"Internet publishers are bound by the same
libel laws as print publishers.
Web site operators
are publishers who have the usual defences of
justification (truth), fair comment, qualified
privilege (public interest), and innocent
dissemination; and the same onerous evidential
burden to prove the truth of the statement, or any
One common trick employed by web scum
is to locate a defamatory web and link to it feverishly, directing
reader to the libel in order to achieve their unsavory goals. The
above article also suggests that the simple act
of linking to a defamation is considered "circulating the
defamation", an act of repeating a libel that is just as bad as the
"Action is possible against all persons
responsible for repeating, publishing or otherwise circulating
Further, every day that the defamatory posting
adorns a site, and every repetition of the words, for example by
the forwarding of an email, constitutes a new publication for
which the publisher may be liable."
publishers are liable for blog comments
My Day" blog site in England has published an excellent warning
that suggests that British bloggers are
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 for libel.
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 libel."
See my other notes on the outrageous world of
Annoying Anonymous bloggers are now
Bloggers may be liable for blog
comments - liability
blogging can get you fired!
Consultant personal integrity and
Internet invasion of privacy, libel
and defamation laws courts
Internet linking - Fact Checking
and Libel in the USA
Internet linking - verifying Facts
to avoid Libel and privacy claims
Internet web false light invasion
of privacy and defamation Libel laws
Internet web publishing journalism
libel privacy laws
US cases on cyber libel in message
boards and forums