Friday, 13 November 2009

Blogging and libel from a shop assistants point of view

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 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.

I notice that ECR has hidden all the comments on his blog presumably while he makes a similar trawl, there is a technical problem with this as comments on blogger have feeds, so while they are invisible to a normal web browser anyone with a modicum of IT ability can write a JavaScript page that will show them.

So went I and re wrote the script on 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.


  1. Yet again, there really is a lot of BS being written about libel on the Thanet blogs at the moment.

    FYI, the reason comments are disabled on my blog is not so that I can undertake some kind of Kim and Aggie How Clean is Your House? blog scrub (their show's been axed anyway!) Of course I know that comments can still be accessed. Whatever your opinion, I'm not an internet narna!

    In fact as far as I am aware there is nothing actionable in any of the comments on my blog, I am merely being ultra cautious given recent, er, local difficulties, about which I cannot say more at the moment.

  2. The libel laws for the UK and the web need to be clarified that is for sure. As you see from my blog, an anonymous user wrote something and then I am the one getting into trouble for it. It's a very grey area and something needs to be done about it soon.

    I would repeat the message that bloggers need to be very careful in what they type or even what strangers type on their blogs because currently as it stands you will be responsible.

  3. Ah, hello Richard, and welcome back!

  4. How can anybody be traced if they operate a blog or post comments using one of the many free wireless networks? Just go and eat your big mac and at the same time log in and libel whoever you like. You may even be able to gain untraceable access at you local council gateway.

  5. Oh yes hello Richard welcome back and from that do I take it that it is ok for your comments to appear on interesting point though is that if one were construed as libellous, would I been seen as culpable for letting them appear there, perhaps I will be ultra cautious too.

    The thought of you as an internet narna never really occurred to me, this was much more a case of me following what appeared to be your intention, i.e. not letting your comments show for whatever reason as you hadn’t let them appear.

    What I am getting at here is on my day off yesterday sitting in one café culture café I suddenly realised that I was connected to the internet using the café next door’s Wi Fi, I had used it the previous week and my laptop had logged on automatically.

    By this time I had published yesterdays blog post and about 150 pictures that I had just taken, I wasn’t even at the address of the IP account holder.

    Adem it is a murky world and I don’t think any legislation will ever be able to keep up with the way technology evolves, back in 1969 I was involved in a computer project called the Minerva project i.e. to produce a computer that could learn, it did but from the fluorescent lights in the laboratory, several great computing minds spent months trying to decode this information. The message which eventually translated as use a light bulb instead and you will find it’s just another dumb machine took a while to get through.

    However I don’t think it will be all that long before one can write a blog site that automatically replies to comments, so we may see a PC in the dock soon that isn’t able to pound the beat.

    Ah 15.30 that came in while I was writing this between serving customers I had the pay as you go 02 internet bolt on my mobile for a while last year and noticed that you didn’t need to give a real name and address.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Blimey! Anyone would think I was on remand for mass murder, not in receipt of a legal challenge over some words what I (allegedly) wrote!!

  8. ECR it an old Army trick. Start a rumour. Then go to the Command, as a responsible NCO, to report the rumour for their attention. Then they publish a clarification or denial on orders.

    A more refined variation is to get some dull c-nt to report the circulating rumour and keep the NCO out of the frame altogether .....

    If you are not the manipulative NCO in the story I assume you can work out which character you are ?

    Didn't the lovely Rebecca similarly manipulate you over a Tesco bag contents ?

    Maybe you don't twinkle as bright as your own opinion of your wattage would imply ?

  9. Tesco bags with Rebecca? Please tell us more, 20.07?

  10. Rebecca and Tesco bags, we await ECR's answer not anon 20 07's. Anon, the "Army Rumour" exponent, merely asked the question to illustrate the point surely ?

    ECR the er Punchinello (geddit ?)

    If the lawyer is a fat cat what does it make the fellow who scurries away from it at the first miaow ?

  11. You sound very like one of our local councillors with a military background there, 20:07.

    Try sticking your 100 watt bulb where the sun doesn't shine. You might find it sheds some light on your comments!

  12. Guvnor said

    Tvinkle Tvinkle lil ECR

    How vee don't care who you are


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.