Bloggers liable for content

30Oct07

The issue of blogger anonymity has been seen in a variety of different ways. Some hold the view that only through invisible blogs can real opinion be shared – others believe that hiding behind a pseudonym is wrong and that the author’s name should be known.

The Worlds Leading, Armadgeddon and Fake Steve Jobs (until recently) are great examples of blogs that through anonymity have managed to say things that otherwise would have remained hidden. Of course there is the issue of trust and whether this can be achieved if we don’t know who the author is.

However this whole debate might be moot after what has transpired in a recent court ruling with Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. Swan Turton solicitors summarised the judgement and explained:

the High Court ordered the defendant, Mr Neil Hargreaves, to reveal the identities of certain users of a website owned and operated by him, www.owlstalk.co.uk, who had posted defamatory messages on the website regarding Sheffield Wednesday FC, its chief executive, chairman and directors. The users had all registered with the website using pseudonyms such as “Halfpint”.

Whilst this individual case focuses on a forum (not a blog), the ruling could be interpreted to mean that a blogs author may not be as hidden as they may think. Tracey McManus continues to point out that:

the tide may be turning and the courts will be more willing to grant orders disclosing users’ true identities. So bloggers beware: your invisibility cloak may not be as effective as you think.

The Internet has given everyone the freedom to speak their mind – but at a price. This does not mean that people are not free to say what they want but if they make defamatory comments they could be liable to be sued.

However, I am sure that some people would love to be brought to court to explain their views. Can you imagine what would have happened if Jeff Jarvis was sued by Dell?

It is often quoted that the pen is mightier than the sword. This was recently proved true in Australia where a court decided that an unfavourable review of a Sydney restaurant was defamatory, opening the way for the owners to claim damages. Now bloggers need to beware too – in my opinion it is just a matter of time before a blogger is held accountable for what they say.



2 Responses to “Bloggers liable for content”

  1. How to remove Internet based defamation and online libel
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  1. 1 Some great blog posts to share « Technobabble 2.0

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