Look Out ! Behind You- There Is A Writ About
If the words published on-line are defamatory, the author and publisher can be sued as in other areas of the press. The defences of justification, fair comment, privilege can then be used. However, ISPs cannot be placed into the traditional roles of publisher and author. ISPs can defend a claim for libel in certain circumstances, namely it was not the author, editor or publisher; If reasonable care was taken and The ISP had no reason to believe that it caused the publication of the defamatory statement. An internet site may also be vulnerable to libel if if it knows about the defamatory statements but does not react quickly enough to remove them. A defamatory statement can appear on any internet terminal around the world, which means that litigation can be brought any country.
Yesterday there was a landmark case in which a solicitor won £17 500 in damages for hurt feelings and £28 500 legal costs against the Solicitors from Hell website because of the writings of a deranged cyberstalker in a comment section that the site owner did not remove or corroborate.
I suspect there will be quite a body of case law that will start to build up off the back of this and London being the libel capital of the world there will be quite a few more actions for hurt feelings started.
The Wild West of the Internet will be policed and tamed by both Governments and Corporate Lawyers over the next twelve months. With work drying up in other profitable areas, you can be sure that American Corporates are typing affidavits as we speak. Unlike in the USA where there is a Constitutional Guarantee of Free Speech, we ain't got a Constitution that guarantees much other that Parliament is sovereign.