Thread removal - legal issues

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Thread removal - legal issues

Post by onomatopoeia @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:55 am

I've taken a quote from the thread removal topic in 'website feedback', because it touches on a subject I have been interested in ever since Godfrey vs Thus plc (Demon Internet) and this is nothing to do with the specific thread that was removed, only inspired by the underlying legal issues that apply to any content that gets removed. No-one else may be remotely interested in this, of course.

TKF wrote:As a final point it's a real shame that things have to get deleted like this. Nothing against you G WHATSOEVER btw. Just annoyed that stuff can't get posted on most web sites for fear of legal recriminations.


Breaking that down, do you think it is a shame we have laws about defamation at all, or a shame they apply to things published on the internet, or a shame that the concept of publisher liability includes the publishers (~G~, in this instance) of internet sites hosting user generated content? What would be a better legal way forward?

The laws were always there, the difference the internet has made is in making it much easier to become the author of something that is published, or a publisher yourself.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by morebeanz @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:59 am

Fair question, and one that in my opinion hinges on the difference between a forum discussion and "publication".

It would be a big crimp in the internet if folks couldn't discuss issues openly on the net, but clearly these discussions need to be, in some way, "private". Otherwise they become platforms for any old looney to spout drivel with impunity.

Obviously outright publication in any media form needs to be managed (I deliberately did not say controlled) such that it is a free expression of opinion but based on a fair approach to all.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Turntable @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:11 am

Interesting discussion.
I think the laws are neccesary. Most people get loads of thier information from teh internet nowadays and if people could type what they want with impunity, and that thing appears in google searches - then it is just not fair on potentially innocent companies innocently tarnished.

In theory, you can still post stuff provided it is true (I think) which is how it should be.
In reality, though, any forum owner cannot ascertain the truthfullness of what is posted so simply cannot allow it.

I guess the answer is that it should be the posters who are liable and not the owner.

As an aside, how do all these rate-a-whatever sites exist? THe ones with reviews/travel things. Lots of unverifiable things get posted on those?
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Strawman @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:21 am

Turntable wrote:As an aside, how do all these rate-a-whatever sites exist? THe ones with reviews/travel things. Lots of unverifiable things get posted on those?


Yes, allegedly negative reviews of hotels get posted by rival hotels in that same area, there is not even a check to make sure the reviewer actually stayed in the Hotel or not.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by LotusNova @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:23 am

I think people should be free to share factual information. I'm not sure where the line is drawn when they share opinion, that may or may not be coloured by their prejudices.

There is a basic human right to freedom of speech, however the limitations placed on this vary from one country to the next. So what is the best way to handle this on an international forum?
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by thekungfury @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:19 am

onomatopoeia wrote:
TKF wrote:As a final point it's a real shame that things have to get deleted like this. Nothing against you G WHATSOEVER btw. Just annoyed that stuff can't get posted on most web sites for fear of legal recriminations.


Breaking that down, do you think it is a shame we have laws about defamation at all, or a shame they apply to things published on the internet, or a shame that the concept of publisher liability includes the publishers (~G~, in this instance) of internet sites hosting user generated content?

My point in that thread is the latter. Taking an extreme analogy it's like somebody scribbling libellous graffiti on your front door and for you to be sued for the content. Or for the owners of the bridge to go to court because "M KAHN IS BENT".

This is clear as day with a link on every page.
Chew The Fat.com accepts no responsibility or liability for the content of material posted to this website by third parties which is defamatory, obscene, inaccurate, misleading, malicious, unlawful, pornographic or which infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights. The Management of the site accept no responsibility for the posts, accuracy or authorship of the content.

However case law precedent leaves the forum owner open to litigation if a complaint is made and the post/thread is not removed. Which is shit.

onomatopoeia wrote:What would be a better legal way forward?

The problem with the internet is the anonymity and malicious people (including competitors) can and do post negative things about people/companies which can damage their reputation. The solution so far is to throw the baby out with the bathwater so genuine constructive reviews get lost and we're just left with positive reviews. I think it's sad because I think (hope) most people can distinguish between unfounded maliciousness and legitimate problems.

Likewise people can spot the business owner/relative/friend posting glowing reviews in amongst a tide of complaints. Just off the top of my head and, erm, in no way related to the removed thread, erm, here's an example of this http://www.reviewcentre.com/review626456.html

There's an interesting case on PH at the moment about Karl Verdi. In the past whenever people posted negative comments about Verdi (a PH sponsor) the threads were locked/deleted. As a consequence only the positive comments remained and people continued using him.

He sold cars on SOR but never gave the owners the money. In December the company folded into liquidation and people are still owed tens of thousands. It had been going on for months/years but posters who had lost money were silenced.

Defamatory laws are necessary but unfortunately they take the easy route of targeting the site owners (or the ISP in the case of Demon) rather than the poster. One solution could be for the site owners to be compelled to provide the poster's details? Difficult to administer since we don't have to provide a recent utility bill to sign up on a forum. However if I was going to complain on a forum about a company with a legitimate problem then I wouldn't mind them knowing that it was me complaining.

In fact several years ago I did exactly that. I was buying a sat nav unit and the seller wasn't answering e-mails or calls. I went to a forum where I knew he advertised and posted my experience with a username that he'd recognise (part of e-mail address). I posted it after days of being ignored/fobbed off and within 2hrs he contacted me and the order was completed.

tl;dr
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Gone @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:32 am

This post intentionally left blank.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Strawman @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:38 am

TKF wrote:[
In fact several years ago I did exactly that. I was buying a sat nav unit and the seller wasn't answering e-mails or calls. I went to a forum where I knew he advertised and posted my experience with a username that he'd recognise (part of e-mail address). I posted it after days of being ignored/fobbed off and within 2hrs he contacted me and the order was completed.

tl;dr


Slightly related to this I was overcharged, IMO, by my mobile phone company, I phoned the customer helpline and was fobbed off with a that's tough for you line, I went onto a forum they are part of and outlined my case, I got all the money credited back to my account that same day.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by bobthemonkey @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:39 am

One of the nasty surprises with libel and the internet is the repeat publication/Brunswick rule. Essentially, every separate publication of a libelous comment gives rise to a new cause of action. Here publication does not refer to the actual production of the comment, but it's 'consumption' by right minded members of the public so if one wrote a libelous letter and showed it to five people, there would be five separate causes of action.

This principle extends to the internet (based on Godfrey) such that each discrete hit on a webpage containing a libelous comment gives rise to a new action. With even a modest hit rate, the scale of damages can multiply much more massively than a private individual ever had access to before, ad potentially over a massive period of time. Unfortunately, this provision has been tested in the ECHR in a case brought by the times and was upheld, as it was not a barrier to free speech . Not a bad article here on it:http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/in-practice/internet-publication-and-freedom-expression .
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Turntable @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:51 am

TKF- Do you have any lins to that PH thing or is it not public knowledge?
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by thekungfury @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:03 am

Turntable wrote:TKF- Do you have any lins to that PH thing or is it not public knowledge?

Since the company has gone bust and there is no reputation to defame PH have allowed it to remain. link

A link on there to FChat shows he owed at least a quarter of a million to owners when they folded.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Strawman @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:43 pm

Another thread on PH where the question is raised who to take a classic BMW too, various recommendations then others saying Nooo! they'll steal your money.
http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topi ... +%28E28%29
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Thread removal - legal issues

Post by WD40 @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:49 pm

Not so much steal your money as cannibalise your car for parts and refit substandard/used ones instead, an LSD becoming an open diff was mentioned as an example.

Also getting people to have expensive "preventative maintenance" that isn't needed via scare stories and changing suspension that only needs a minor mod and turning the job into a major overhaul etc.
Last edited by WD40 on Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Turntable @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:50 pm

TKF wrote:
Turntable wrote:TKF- Do you have any lins to that PH thing or is it not public knowledge?

Since the company has gone bust and there is no reputation to defame PH have allowed it to remain. link

A link on there to FChat shows he owed at least a quarter of a million to owners when they folded.


I hate that.
At the point that there started being some question of them defrauding customers, PH should either have left the comments or removed everything including the positives and the advertising.
People trust the opinion of PHers with regards to car matters so if all that you can find are positive comments it would encourage you to use them. I feel quite angry on thier behalfs
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by Strawman @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:02 pm

WD40 wrote:Not so much steal your money as cannibalise your car for parts and refit substandard/used ones instead, an LSD becoming an open diff was mentioned as an example.

Also getting people to have expensive "preventative maintenance" that isn't needed via scare stories and changing suspension that only needs a minor mod and turning the job into a major overhaul etc.


All this could be true, I'm not familiar with any of the places, I was just summarising the posts perhaps a little unfairly, in a lamely comical fashion. Interesting in terms of examples for this thread.
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Re: Thread removal - legal issues

Post by onomatopoeia @ Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:03 pm

TKF wrote:Defamatory laws are necessary but unfortunately they take the easy route of targeting the site owners (or the ISP in the case of Demon) rather than the poster. One solution could be for the site owners to be compelled to provide the poster's details? Difficult to administer since we don't have to provide a recent utility bill to sign up on a forum.


(thanks for the considered reply btw)

Generally all the site owner can provide is the IP address against the post if the software they are using records it (possibly a throwaway email address the poster has registered with as well) and I believe it is already possible in law to go to court to get this information. Thing is that is unlikely to be helpful alone, in the best case it will be the ISP used by the poster and the IP they were assigned at that time, which a further court application will allow the possibility of access to the ISP's log to find out which subscriberthat corresponds to. Then proceedings can be issued can (perhaps) be issued against the subscriber.

In one of the worst cases it will be the IP address of a customer which knowingly or unkowingly has an open wireless network that someone has connected to in order to post, so the trail stops there as there is no requirement in law to log connections unless instructed to do so by the secretary of state. Since the author is now untraceable, if the publisher also has no liability the potentially defamatory comment can stand unchallenged. So, publisher liability has to remain and we have "notify and take down" which followed Godfrey but places the burden squarely on those running sites with user generated contend to make a judgement of their own about whether a comment is defamatory, and which they are often not qualified to do so err on the side of caution and take everything down that they are asked.

Defamation is a minefield, just ask Simon Singh. I don't know the answer.
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