Be careful what you post!

  VoG II 18:41 10 Sep 2004

click here

Seems a bit over the top to sue if the offending post was removed though.

  Dorsai 19:39 10 Sep 2004

I agree.

But it is any persons right, i guess, to sue if someone says somthing both untrue and, what? libel, slander, defermation of character? Any which way, it's allowed in the law.

wether it's a good idea to sue or not is a different matter. As stated in the click here it did bring the statement (that next to no one read) out to a broarder audiance.

but then i don't know what was said, and it was not said about me.

  zanwalk 20:30 10 Sep 2004

However, I do think that people should be careful about making wild claims that are not supported by fact, free speech is all very well, but if someone is disseminating claims about another person that are not true, it is surely a 'right' of that other person to sue? Whether or not it is wise is entirely a different matter.

  Old Shep 21:00 10 Sep 2004

I would agree with you.It does seem that anyone will sue anyone these days for the pettiest of things.Hopefully we will never get to that stage with our eagle eyed F.E. If people are going to sue surely they should sue the individual concerned and not the media (like this site) who try to mantain a modicum of control,but is nigh impossible to watch every thread every second.

  stalion 21:10 10 Sep 2004

at least we are not as bad as the usa yet where everbody sue's each other at the drop of a hat

  spuds 22:12 10 Sep 2004

Seeing the large amount of money that can be obtained by suing someone, makes you think were will it all end.There are many victims of crime and the like, who cannot get a thing.

  feb 03:39 11 Sep 2004

Mention no names!!

  Dorsai 14:04 11 Sep 2004

I agree, mention no names, or say alleged or accused.

A.N. other is accused of...

A.N. Other is alleged to be...

He is a...(but i did not say who 'He' is)

  Kate B 11:11 13 Sep 2004

Not sure that it wasn't right for Robertson to sue, actually - his reputation is very important to him and it had been impugned by the post.

One problem with defamation (which covers both libel and slander) is that at present you can't get legal aid to launch an action, which tends to mean it's the privilege of the rich.

The decision about whether to run a potentially dodgy remark when editing a piece is partly based on the likelihood of the person suing. Maxwell, for example, was incredibly litigious and you'd excise anything potentially defamatory even if the lawyer thought you might argue a "fair comment" defence, or indeed any other defence in court, because you could bet your bottom dollar a writ would land from him. Even if it didn't end up in court, it meant hassle and cost.

One thing to keep an eye out for is a judgment due from Strasbourg in the next few weeks. The McLibel Two (do a Google search, it's a long story but worth reading) lost when McDonald's sued them over their allegations, although it's generally held that the Golden Arches only had a Phyrric victory as some of their allegations were found to be true, the fine was tiny and I think it was never paid.

They have recently argued that they were denied their right to free speech and a fair trial because they had no access to legal aid to fight McDonald's and had to defend themselves while of course McDonald's unleashed the vast legal resources of a huge global corporation against them.

We're waiting on the judgment but if it goes the McLibel Two's way, it could lead to a sea-change in the access to funds for regular - ie, not rich - folk to fight defamation actions.

Meantime, in the great democratising internet, I think it's up to people to assume the responsibilities of publishing as well as the privileges, as we have been doing in professional publishing since the dawn of time. The piece in the link makes the point about "citizen journalists": it's a good one, and reminds us that with freedom comes responsibility.

The defamation laws in the UK are pretty straightforward: don't say anything untrue. There are various defences and you can pretty easily find them out. And underlying that principle is the basic assumption that people have a right not to have their good reputation trashed meaninglessly. To that end, Robertson was right to sue.

He was also right to sue as hopefully it has sent out a message to people posting on internet forums: that you can't just slag someone off!

  Talented Monkey 12:20 13 Sep 2004

Of course you always sprinkle your comments with Ian Hislop's favourite word, allegedly!

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