Apr 11 2012 By Mark Lewis, partner and specialist in IT related matters
A new exclusive blog in which solicitors at IBB of Capital Court, Windsor Street, Uxbridge, examine and explain some of the legal issues that could affect you from family law to employment and contract law, property, probate and more.held responsiblefor any potentially defamatory postings.
AGAINST a background of increasing numbers of people posting content on social media and online forums, a recent ruling means service providers may well not be held responsible for any potentially defamatory postings.
Google has just won a judgement saying it cannot be held liable for postings on its sites. With courts refusing to hold internet service providers (ISPs) liable for potentially libellous comments posted on their sites, complainants will be left to fight their own battles with the individuals who posted the content.
Even though many comments are posted anonymously or under a screen name, it is still possible, however, to get a court order to find out who the poster is.
The ruling from the High Court was made in a case brought by former Tory local council candidate Payam Tamiz, who took action after comments were made about him by a user on Google’s Blogger.com platform.
When he complained to Google, asking that the comments be removed, the ISP refused, saying that it would not do so unless Mr Tamiz proved them to be libellous, forcing him to sue the person who had made the postings.
As he considered it might be difficult to trace the original posters, he opted to sue Google.
The internet giant defended its case on the basis that it had not published the comments; it simply provided the internet platform for the exchange of comments and information.
Mark Lewis explains: “Unlike newspaper publishers - who actively decide what to publish - Google held that its service was more like a noticeboard and drawing pins, arguing it could not be held responsible for messages and other material pinned up on the board it provided.”
Google also claimed it was protected by the European Electronic Commerce Regulations, which provide companies such as ISPs with a complete defence against claims for damages or for criminal liability arising from unlawful activities carried out on their servers.
When it reached the High Court, the judge agreed that under the terms of English law, Google had not published the allegedly libellous comments and that it was entitled to the protection given by the commerce regulations.
Mark Lewis continues: “Google had to demonstrate that it had no knowledge of illegal activity and the court accepted that the mere fact that someone had made a complaint did not mean that Google was aware of illegal activity; as the comments might have been perfectly valid. The case shows that the courts in England are reluctant to restrict the free flow of online information.”
This is not legal advice. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.