A Forum Sued!!

  Mark5001 21:25 18 Jun 2008
Locked

click here

Now we can see why the F.E clamps down on those negative posts about slagging off a business on here.

  WhiteTruckMan 21:32 18 Jun 2008

to live in fear of litigation to such an extent that you cannot voice legitimate concerns and/or grievances?

WTM

  anskyber 22:27 18 Jun 2008

"voice legitimate concerns and/or grievances?"

Well yes provided they are legitimate and capable of justification. The problem is there is a widely held view that anything can be said on line without fear or favour.

The net is, and should be, the subject of the same rules and constraints about defamation as the non cyber world. After all if the comment was directed towards anyone of us I think there would be outrage.

  Forum Editor 23:06 18 Jun 2008

that we're not going to discuss the particulars of case in point for obvious reasons, and I'm afraid that I will delete any comments about what should or shouldn't be the outcome. This isn't the first time someone has brought a libel action against those who run web forums - there was a fairly high-profile (and successful)case brought against an Internet Service Provider some years ago.

Often when I stop a thread, or delete a comment I'm accused of being biased towards a particular supplier, or of stifling 'the right to free speech', and I find myself explaining yet again the reasons why I might appear to be doing that. Libel is a serious matter, and despite what some people appear to believe, you can't come into a forum like this and say whatever comes into your head about an individual, a group of individuals, or a company. Making sweeping allegations about a company can have serious implications for its business, and unless you have clear and specific evidence to show that what you say is true you may be guilty of publishing a libel. Our libel laws are such that we, as operators of this site may be what's called 'jointly and severally liable' for the libel if we allow its publication, or fail to remove the offending comment, once it has been brought to our attention. This means that as the editor of the site I might end up in court alongside the person who posted the thread, defending myself against an action for damages.

I'm not about to let that happen if I have anything to do with it, and so I'll act to protect myself, the magazine, and the person who made the comment - I'll delete anything that in my judgment might be defamatory.

It's perfectly OK to complain about a company, and it's OK to say "I'll not deal with them again because of the way they treated me". Facts are fine, but stick to them; don't say things like "SoopaDoopa computers deliberately took my money and ran, they are a bunch of con-merchants, and should be locked up - they had no intention of delivering my order". Neither is it OK to say "The Managing Director said they didn't get my phone call, and his staff deny receiving my emails - they're all a bunch of filthy liars and cheats."

Comments like that are defamatory, and could damage the reputation of a business in the eyes of its potential customers. You could be on the wrong end of a libel action as a result.

None of that means you have to take it on the chin when a company provides bad service, or supplies a faulty product - if you think you've received bad service then say so, and if you receive a badly-built machine then say so, but express it as an opinion, rather than inferring it was deliberately supplied with a faulty hard drive. You couldn't possibly prove that the faulty item was deliberately supplied, so don't infer that it was.

The libel laws are there to protect people from having their reputations (personal or business) damaged by false allegations, and someone who has been libeled does not have to prove anything - it's for the libeler to prove that what he/she said was true.

  WhiteTruckMan 23:16 18 Jun 2008

a company ought not to be able to hide behind libel laws by resorting to bullyboy legal tactics.

WTM

  Forum Editor 23:37 18 Jun 2008

Indeed not, which is why I'm determined never to be bullied by suppliers who threaten legal action. It has happened (the threat) on several occasions, and each time I've refused to remove the comment that was at the heart of the matter.

I need to be sure of my ground, however, and I try hard to allow a supplier to get a fair hearing if there's a specific point to clarify. Not all customer complaints are justified, and suppliers are welcome to put their side of the story across in the forum, provided they, too, abide by our rules, and by my decisions as Forum Editor. What's important is to understand that if a supplier doesn't wish to join a discussion it doesn't automatically mean that the customer is right.

Usually it's quite easy for me to judge when a comment is defamatory, but if there's any doubt I'll err on the side of caution. In those cases I often write to the person who made the post, suggesting an alternative way to make the point.

  laurie53 07:32 19 Jun 2008

"you can't come into a forum like this and say whatever comes into your head about an individual, "

"unless you have clear and specific evidence to show that what you say is true you may be guilty of publishing a libel."

I seem to remember your once describing me as stupid and bigoted.

Do you have such evidence, or should I contact my lawyers?

(Only joking!)

  Legolas 07:53 19 Jun 2008

We all have the evidence we have read your posts ;))))

  Legolas 07:54 19 Jun 2008

Sorry couldn't resist it

  laurie53 16:54 19 Jun 2008

lol

  Forum Editor 17:30 19 Jun 2008

Calling someone 'stupid and bigoted' is an expression of opinion, and is usually contextual, as in 'He normally expresses himself coherently enough, but on this subject his input is stupid and bigoted'.

By all measn contact your lawyers, but I suspect they might advise you to save your money, particularly so, now that someone else has endorsed my remark.

I know you were only joking.

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

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