pj123 18:09 27 Jul 2006

There are a few threads where Forum Members have been reprimanded for suggesting a Boycott, (against the Forum rules). The implication is that PCA can also be involved.

I have, recently, seen a few letters in my local/national newspaper asking everyone to "boycott" something. The last one was from a Local MP. The newspapers concerned don't appear to be very concerned that they also may be implicated. Is this PCA being over cautious?

Please be aware, I have read and agree with the PCA Forum Rules.

  Forum Editor 18:52 27 Jul 2006

It's an interesting point, and of course there are many instances of boycotting in everday life - action groups often call for specific companies, or countries even, to be boycotted - usually for humanitarian or environmental reasons. Usually the boycott request is backed up by concrete evidence. This is slightly different from someone who posts in our forum along the lines of:-

"I bought a monitor from ScreensRus and it went wrong on the first day. I phoned them and they couldn't have cared less. They obviously wanted to avoid complying with consumer law, They're a bunch of thieving cowboys, and they took my money under false pretences, don't touch them with a ten foot pole"

That is a potentially libellous statement about a specific retailer, and is published where tens of thousands of people will see it.

As Forum Editor I have a duty to ensure that the magazine isn't exposed (even inadvertantly) to the possibility of a libel action. That possibility may be slight, or it may not, it depends entirely on specific circumstances. What is certain is that there have been successful libel actions against the publishers of web forums, and they have been brought on the basis of what was written by forum contributors.

If I'm going to err in this it's going to be on the side of caution - one big award of damages is one too many - and that's why I operate the "no exhortation to boycott" rule. Quite apart from anything else, I'm sure you'll agree that it's ludicrous to expect thousands of people to avoid a supplier because one person had a bad shopping experience. If that was the way to proceeed we would all have run out of available suppliers years ago.

Let common sense be your guide when posting for public consumption, and all will be well.

  DieSse 22:14 28 Jul 2006

Why don't you just need a disclaimer to say that they're not the publishers (etc) opinions?

Even if it's not the whole answer, there isn't a disclaimer on this page, and I would have thought it would be prudent to have one on every page.

  Kate B 22:35 28 Jul 2006

A disclaimer isn't sufficient - it isn't protection. The libel laws mean that someone who has been defamed can sue not only the person who has defamed him or her but also any conduit for the libel. So if you're libelled in a newspaper you can not only go after the newspaper/the journalist, you can also go after the distributor of the paper and even the newsagents that stocked the offending issue.

The same applies to the internet - if someone posts something defamatory on a forum, the owner of the forum can be sued. I'm not sure what the position is vis-a-vis the host and ISPsn - I think there's some case law that exempts the host and ISP on the grounds that they can't possibly monitor everything. But a forum can and does monitor posts and so therefore can be held liable.

  Forum Editor 22:40 28 Jul 2006

I couldn't have put it better - so I won't try.

  Kate B 23:16 28 Jul 2006

My pleasure!

  DieSse 00:21 29 Jul 2006

Having read around the subject a little, it appears that at least US law does give immunity against actions for even monitored forums, treating forum operators as distributors rather than publishers. This is in contrast to the situation for printed material, such as newspapers.

I clearly understand the the UK and US may well be very different in such an area.

I also read that in the UK, whilst a defamatory action may succeed against a letter writer, the same action may not succeed against a letter publisher, if the publisher can successfully argue lack of malice.

  DieSse 00:23 29 Jul 2006

PS - I entirely understand that you err on the side of caution FE.

  pj123 17:55 29 Jul 2006

I think telling/asking people to boycott a particular company/retailer/person is very different from making defamatory statements.

There are many retailers that I won't go to anymore but that doesn't mean everyone else shouldn't go there. If you are happy if what you get from your particular store then that is fine. I won't ask you to stop going there just because I have had a bad experience with them.

But I still don't think that saying something like: "Don't buy from this store" is defamatory

  ade.h 18:01 29 Jul 2006

Not defamatory in a direct sense, but potentially damaging to business and to image.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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