Having just got back to the shop after my day off and therefore I have time to read all my emails and check through the blog and remove any malicious comments, there was one possible libel against a council officer.
This is a bit of a stupid action on the part of the anonymous poster concerned, as if this sort of thing goes on I will have to put comment moderation on, which is a considerable hindrance to lively debate.
Anyway one way or another I am trying to work out which if any of the other comments on this blog could be libellous, a pretty tedious business and any help would be gratefully appreciated.
There is a very good article about this here http://www.rexxfield.com/internet_libel_help_online_smear_campaign.php it says:
“Basic Requirements of a Defamation Case
A defamation plaintiff must usually establish the following elements to recover damages:
Identification The plaintiff must show that the publication was "of and concerning" himself or herself.
Publication The plaintiff must show that the defamatory statements were disseminated to a third party.
Defamatory Meaning The plaintiff must establish that the statements in question were defamatory. For example, the language must do more than simply annoy a person or hurt a person's feelings.
Falsity The statements must be false; truth is a defense to a defamation claim. Generally, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof of establishing falsity.
Statements of Fact The statements in question must be objectively verifiable as false statements of fact. In other words, the statements must be provable as false. (Caveat: Expressions of opinion can imply an assertion of objective facts. See Milkovich v. Lorain Journal.)
Damages The false and defamatory statements must cause actual injury or special damages.”
This is American law I know but blogger is an American site.
So went I and re wrote the script on http://thanetblogs.blogspot.com/ so the comments on his site don’t show there.
It is very difficult to know how I would stand over litigation relating to anonymous posts that appear to be libellous, obviously I remove them as soon as I see them and obviously I remove anything that names a person or company if the named person or company asks me to.
As it is possible to comment on many of the local and national newspapers and it is possible for an anonymous poster to do this in a way that they would be impossible to track down, I foresee considerable problems in law about who is responsible for what.
One of the greatest problems with the internet is that everyone using it has a limited understanding of how it works and people are inclined to forget that much of what one publishes is in code that one can’t see, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
By that I mean if you make a mistake and rub it out I doesn’t necessarily mean that it has gone away.
Another problem is that of search engine caches which means that if one deleted something from ones website that doesn’t stop it being visible.