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View Full Version : Internet libel - chatroom insults lead to Court victory



Worldlife
27-03-2006, 07:09 AM
Warning for forum users from Times On Line:-

Chat room insults lead to internet libel victory (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2097470,00.html)

Wonder whether in the light of this case moderators should reconsider the point at which intervention may be appropriate.

For example IMHO some of the posts on Charing rental twice (http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/editpost.php?do=editpost&p=13645)should have been edited or deleted by a moderator. The initial reaction to posting this information there seemed to provoke the question of who was libelling who.

Wonder if prompt moderation would mitigate any libel action or reduce damages if a libel case was won.

Please keep this thread to discuss general principles and leave discussion concerning individual threads on the threads concerned.

Harry
27-03-2006, 14:20 PM
Very interesting topic. Let's bear in mind that if matter is defamatory, it is actionable against the author wherever it is published - in a newspaper, on the television, or on the internet.
However, what Wildlife has begun to explore here is the liability of the publisher. Someone who is defamed on the radio, for example, will automatically sue not only the person who made the defamatory statement, but also the BBC, because they published it (and they have more money to pay damages).
There is some question about the extent of the liability of (say) the host of a message board, such as this one, and an ISP.
Anyone who publishes a defamatory remark is liable, so in theory, a plaintiff could sue a newspaper, the wholesaler that sold the newspaper to a newsagent, and the newsagent himself. If I read the report then passed it to a friend, I could also be theoretically liable.
A judge at Lincoln County Court held Friends Reunited to be liable when someone made defamatory remarks about a former teacher. However, a county court judgment is not binding on any other courts, so this has yet to be tested properly.
It is worth noting that the judge held against Friends Reunited because, among other considerations, they did not remove the defamatory remark after the complainant had drawn it to their attention.
I won't go into the liability of ISPs, because that's not at issue here.
What I would suggest is that it would be common sense for remarks on this board that are clearly defamatory to be removed at the initiative of the person responsible for the board's publication, and that if anyone draws to his/her attention a remark that they consider to be defamatory, he errs on the side of caution.
Do bear in mind that people from all over the world come to the UK to sue for damages for defamation because the legislation is so heavily weighted in favour of the person who is allegedly defamed.

davidjohnbutton
27-03-2006, 15:29 PM
Well, despite my requests, the bit about calling me a "Dodgy landlord" has not been removed nor the offender dealt with!

Energise
27-03-2006, 16:04 PM
Its an expensive game to play, there is an ongoing saga on uk.local.southwest between

John Bunt (Claimant) and 1. David Tilley 2. Paul Hancox 3. Christopher Stevens 4. AOL UK Ltd 5. Tiscali UK Ltd 6. British Telecommunications plc (Defendants)

John Bunt the LIP lost the first stages in the High Court 2 weeks ago and apparently owes costs of around £40,000.


(allegedly) :)

Daytona
27-03-2006, 19:20 PM
The ISPs had the claim against them struck out. General feeling amoungst the legal community is that he represented his case poorly.

There is little doubt that he has a case against the authors.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2006/407.html

Having served cease and desist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cease_and_desist) notices against ISPs, I can say that they do take these seriously. LandlordZone would be stupid to ignore such formal notification from David.

P.Pilcher
27-03-2006, 21:29 PM
I feel that it behoves all us posters to be alert to anyone less experienced who posts anything which could be considered libellous and notify our respected editor and moderator, Tom Entwhistle as soon as possible. I don't think anyone here who has learned so much from this board would like to see Tom being obliged to close it down because of the legal costs that he may be exposed to because he is not vigilant enough to spot and remove libellous statements quickly enough to satisfy some litigious (and rich) person. Some boards insist on vetting all postings before they appear which does not aid healthy discussion. Some boards have a "report this post to a moderator" button to enable the board moderator to be quickly alerted to a post which may be unnacceptable - it would be nice to have that here. Nobody can expect Tom, who has a living to earn, to spend his days reading every post shortly after it is made - particularly as 99.999% are totally acceptable.

P.P.

MrShed
27-03-2006, 21:32 PM
PP....hence a good reason perhaps to have more moderators?

Daytona
28-03-2006, 12:33 PM
Some boards have a "report this post to a moderator" button to enable the board moderator to be quickly alerted to a post which may be unnacceptable - it would be nice to have that here.

Hear, hear - I'm surprised there isn't.

Worldlife
28-03-2006, 13:29 PM
I've had difficulty in finding a link to the forum rules. Guess I probably agreed to comply with certain rules on signing up but I cannot find a copy right now.

If all members are aware of or can check forum rules it is IMHO necessary to have a facilty whereby serious infringements of the rules can be reported promptly.

The worse option I have seen is on some boards where "trolls" have disrupted a serious thread and the moderators, instead of editing or removing the troll posts, have had to extinguish the consequent "flames" by closing or archiving what had started as a useful and helpful thread.

If posts are edited I think the moderator should where possible state briefly the reason for the edit. The computer of cause deletes some offensive words but some try to bypass these controls by words resembling the offensive words or inserting * between various letters of the offensive word.

Agree it is best to tighten up a little, not merely to thwart possible legal actions, but to ensure the forum remains a friendly source of unbiased information to both tenants and landlords.

Worldlife
07-04-2006, 05:14 AM
Thought it might be useful to pop this to the top again as we are discussing the need for moderation of the forum

Jonboy
07-04-2006, 17:54 PM
Thought it might be useful to pop this to the top again as we are discussing the need for moderation of the forum

good call worldlife

LandlordZONE
07-04-2006, 20:17 PM
Thanks for your comments on Internet Libel - yes we are aware of the risks hence our comprehensive terms of use policy. You do agree to these terms when you sign up to the FORUM, but in case you want to review these you will find them on the LandlordZONE site under "Terms" - see:
http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/site-zone/disclaimer.htm
By the way, we have now implemented a very powerful SEARCH facility which is much better than the one on the Forum - it covers Forum, Directory and the LandlordZONE web site either collectively or individually.
Seach on the LandlordZONE site - top of every page - "SEARCH Site" -
http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/zoom/search.php
The intention is to eventually have the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) instantly searchable (please be patient - this is a big job) and there will be a direct link to this Search facility from the FORUM soon.
Please bring offending posts to our attention (please be specific as to where they are) and we will remove them immediately. As has been said, we here are extremely busy and don't have the time to monitor the FORUM constantly - we do rely on our members to alter us to problem posts. Those posts mentioned above have been removed - hopefully the main offenders.
As for lible action, we don't intend to take chances, but for an action to stick the offender would need to indentify an individual - that's difficult were user names are the only means. In andditon, anyone contemplating a claim would need at lease £100k to play with - legal aid does not apply.
We do intend to operate a very strict policy on moderation and recent experience has shown the folly of leniency on this - it just gets out of hand.
Admin Asssistance/ Moderation Rights
If any of the established users are interested I would like to hear from you. Please contact me. Editor.

Worldlife
08-04-2006, 08:36 AM
I have been reluctant to follow this very, very encouraging post in which you explain the future plans for LandlordZONE. The work ahead could be quite daunting so thanks in advance to the team that will bring this to fruition.

Thanks also for the housecleaning following the invasion!

Hope that you have offers from more long standing and experienced members than myself for help as Admin or Moderators but certainly I would be pleased to assist the team , focussing initially on troll control and potentially abusive posting, if that would be useful.

I'm sure any volunteers would act conscientiously and fairly. Presumably individual Admins and Mods would covered by LandlordZONE insurance in respect of any alleged failures to act or respond in a satisfactory way to complaints or fulfilling clearly designated responsibilities

Agree with you that libel cases have in the past been restricted to the very wealthy because of the astronomical costs involved but now we have "No Win - No Fee" lawyers entering the fray.

For example see Boat owner scuppered by 'no win, no fee' case (http://www.youclaim.co.uk/Personal_Injury_News.asp?spid=104)

MrShed
08-04-2006, 18:49 PM
Thank you for ceasing the degeneration of the boards into spam wars recently Editor!

As a point of note, it may be of interest to members, in particular those involved in certain ugly confrontations with another member, to read this thread...in particular the last 2 pages:

http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=26743

cris/c
08-04-2006, 20:23 PM
Welcome back Mr Shed,

it didn't take rocket science to work out that the two rogue posters were one and the same.

As an aside, that was an interesting discussion being raised on the forum you highlighted before it descended into name calling. It would have prompted some interesting opinion on the BTL business, I have some strong views regarding Margaret Thatcher and the selling off of council properties, but that's another story.That is what a forum is all about discussion and debate.

However, this forum, IMHO is by far the most informative and useful to both LL's and tenants. The LL's and agents who form the backbone of the forum, are undoubtedly fair,honest and properly informed. There have been many posts made by worried tenants, and I have yet to read a response from anyone that views the situation totaly in favour of the LL.

Worldlife
08-04-2006, 20:28 PM
We must be careful not to let the wake for a banned Troll disrupt this thread

I do hope Mr Shed is keeping a full log of the posts on the House Price Crash forum that denegrate the LandlordZONE forum and some of it members. It is possible that the posts might be edited by the poster or removed by HPC moderators.

On Mr Shed's link I was reading reasoned and fair discussions between people of very different views concerning landlord and tenant rights until.......... House Price Crash Forum - Main Forums - All about renting - Page 2 - Post 40 by PMS - HPC Newbie - Member 4499 (http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=26743&st=20)

LandlordZONE
08-04-2006, 20:39 PM
Thank you for bringing these posts to our attention Mr Shed - most interesting.
The thread starts off innocuously enough with an interesting debate about letting laws and the landlord / tenant legal balance! That is until our old friend PMS (ASBO) gets started and this is one bitter bitter person.
He/she really has it in for landlords! It's a pity he/she cannot take a more balanced view and put the tenant's case in a more reasoned and democratic way, as opposed to knocking every landlord related target in sight and even stooping to inciting tenants to break the law - that's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned and the reason why we removed these posts from LandlordZONE - presumably in his/her way, to get even!
The president of one of the leading Europe-wide landlord associations once said, and I paraphrase as I cannot remember the exact quote, "The man without the house will ALWAYS envy the man with one" Our PMS / ASBO is one extreme example.
It is tough for young people, or indeed anyone trying to get on the housing ladder, and meanwhile forced to rent, and none of us with a house should be so smug as to argue otherwise. On the other hand I'm sure it's no tougher today, if at all, than at any time in our history - how about pre-WW1 when 90% of our population rented?
Also, there are some bad landlords (perhaps our friend has experienced one or more which has coloured his views so wildly) but the majority, like tenants, are decent law abiding citizens just trying to do a good job at making a living and providing a public service in the process - Adam Smith, in my view, is still right 300 years on - it's just human nature!
History always puts things in perspective, and the interesting debate on the HPC site should be viewed in this light - see:
http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/history.htm
The person who refers to the UK as this "God awful country" should perhaps experience living in some other countries in this world to appreciate how lucky he/she is, and those urging a return to the Rent Act and Rent Control should reflect long and hard on our recent history - to be fair to them, perhaps these posters are far to young to know!
The rent legislation which was introduced progressively and relentlessly from 1915 onwards virtually destroyed the private rental market. Admitedly, the power of landlords, before this legislation, was out of kilter, but even with the legislation people like Rackman could operate - it did not stop them.
By the 1970s the private rental market was virtually non-existent - who in their right mind would let property not knowing if they would ever get it back (tenancies for life and the lives of tenant's children). In addition, rent was controlled at uneconomic levels - it was in fact property confiscation. It was the crasiest socialist legislation you could imagine. I guarantee if you tried to explain it to an invader from another planet, you would be hard pressesd to convince them it was true!
When I started letting I would advertise a property in the local paper and have at least 30 calls the first day - you could let properties many times over, and therefore you could, if you had a mind, charge high rents - the demand was extrodinary because supply had all but dried-up due to this brainless legislation -it had the exact opposite effect to what those well meaning, caring people who enacted it, had in mind!
Abraham Lincoln once said, you cannot make the poor rich by making the rich poor (though Gordon Brown now looks likey to have good a try) - effectively confiscating assests from the propertied classes - and there are a lot more of them now - we're all middle class now - is not the answer to PMS and his buddy's prayers.
The AST was a revelation in the property market: it's not perfect, but it brought some semblence of common sense and balance between landlord and tenant - it's broadly fair to both parties in my view. It's also opend up the property maket to the masses - where would many of us be, landlords & tenants without buy-to-let?
If tenants behave in a fair way, the present law gives them ample protection. If they don't, then the law still protects them (too much in the view of many landlords) because the legal process is still sympathetic to tenants and grinds along extremely slowly - if anything needs reform it's the court system, in my view.
Despite PMS (ASBO)s claims, LandlordZONE aims to help landlords, agents and tenants - those 95% plus, in my experience, of the population who respect each other, their properties and the law - the aim is to encourage professionalism, not the biggoted law-breaking attitude of our friend PMS (ASBO). Come on, see sense - I'm sure that if your bosses knew what you were up to - as an Environmetal Health Officer (as you claim to be) - they would be absolutely horrified!

Worldlife
08-04-2006, 22:24 PM
It is important to keep a balance between free speech and to allow heated discussion - up to a point. It is imperative however to control trolls at an early stage before too much disruption is caused. We need to ensure the troll has prompt warnings that continued postings that require editing will result in a banning from the forum.

I've had another look at Mr Shed's linked thread within that framework. What do others think about these suggestions for moderation if similar messages re-appeared on the LandlordZONE forums?:-

Post 38 delete from "and" to "time"

Warning:- message edited for offensive or insulting content

Post 40 delete in paragraph 1 from "yourself" to "backsides" and delete in paragraph 5 from "for" to end of paragraph

Message edited for offensive or insulting content - this member having posted messages on other threads also contravening Terms and Conditions is now banned

Post 41 Edited by moderator to remove offensive or insulting comments from the quote and also Mr Mash's response to that quote. (first paragraph)

I know LandlordZONE may feel that such actions could be counterproductive but I am wondering if we could have a simple policy statement response saying that Administrators or Moderators will not enter into detailed discussions concerning moderation of an individual post.

Protest threads (before banning) concerning a particular moderation should perhaps be deleted on the grounds that they are not conducive to the general objectives of the forum and the member concerned advised accordingly. That's not intended to prevent reasoned discussion on the general policy of moderation.

Worldlife
09-04-2006, 08:57 AM
Just checking the validity of one of my above recommendations.

On this forum the posts of banned members are not deleted

On some forums if a person is banned the description given of each member under his name is changed. e.g. "Senior" would be deleted by Admin or a Moderator and replaced by "Banned"

Do we agree this should be done on LandlordZONE?

P.Pilcher
09-04-2006, 11:09 AM
Nomatter what we discuss here about moderation techniques or methods, we must remember that the board is the responsibility of our respected moderator and editor, Tom Entwhistle and his decision will therefore always be final.
I have been banned from one board. This was because I posted in a very toned down form, as a result of a new query, some useful information which had been previously removed from the board in question. The information tended to question the business principles of one of the board operator's advertisers. My posting priveleges were removed together with several other board members who had also questioned the ethics of this particular advertiser. We all e-mailed each other and concluded that the loss was that of the board concerned, not us! And the board concerned is a shadow of it's former self today. Other boards I visit regularly are moderated more sensibly - but then they do not have a commercial axe to grind. If a poster oversteps the mark, then the post is edited with the moderator leaving a message as to the reason why the edit was necessary. Only if the said poster fails to note the message and continue with such posts is banning considered.
The reason that the situation got out of hand a bit here, as I have said before is that our editor is a busy man and cannot be expected to read every post as it is made. This is why I have suggested the facility of referring any questionable post to him quickly.
On the board mentioned above, they have now got so sensitive about their problem that no post appears until one of their moderators has read and approved it. This stifles discussion as it takes ages for anybody to get a reply to their query. I sincerely hope that such a policy is not adopted here!

P.P.

MrShed
09-04-2006, 14:40 PM
Just to emphasize, the link was not posted in order to extend unduly any discussion about said poster(although not saying it shouldnt be discussed), merely as I believe it is important to see what is still being said, which could(if he backs up what he is saying) potentially affect members of this board.

jeffrey
10-07-2007, 15:53 PM
Hmmm, a thought-provoking thread here. By popping it up again, may I invite others to moderation in all things?