Bloggers not immune from defamation

The Guardian’s Clare Dyer has a great article (great cos it combines my twin loves of football and blogging) warning that abusive bloggers may face expensive libel claims over online defamation. Court orders obliging websites to disclose the identity of users posting anonymous defamatory remarks began in 2001. Taking oop the Sheffield Wednesday story Clare writes:
“Disgruntled Sheffield Wednesday fans who vented their dissatisfaction with the football club’s bigwigs in anonymous internet postings may face expensive libel claims after the chairman, chief executive and five directors won a high-court ruling last week…” forcing the owner of the owlstalk.co.uk (Sheff Wed’s nickname is the Owls) website to reveal the posters’ identity.
The case debunks the myth that anonymity gives users of internet forums and chatrooms carte blanche to say whatever they like. Dominic Bray, of K&L Gates, Sheffield Wednesday’s solicitors, said:”…the internet is no different to any other place of publication, and if somebody is making defamatory comments about people then they should be held responsible for it. What these cases do is just confirm that’s the law – the law applies to the internet as much as it does to anything else.” For the hyper-interested, here’s how Sheff Wed’s directors went for the bloggers…
Revealing the Sheffield Wednesday fans was comparatively easy since there was no secret about the website owner. The next move was to apply for a
court order requiring him to reveal the identities of “Halfpint” and the other fans behind what the club’s lawyers described as a “sustained campaign of vilification”. The judge ordered that three fans whose postings might “reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour”, should be unmasked. Their right to maintain their anonymity and express themselves freely was outweighed by the directors’ entitlement to
take action to protect their reputation, he said.

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